Author: Matt Moore

Jose Calderon

The Inbounds: NBA schmoe, International Superstar of Mystery


If you’re a casual NBA fan, most of the players on the Olympic teams other than Team USA don’t ring any bells. You’ll recognize a few.

“Hey, that’s that point guard for the Canada team, right?”

“You mean, the Toronto Raptors?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said, the team in Canada.”


“Hey, didn’t that guy play for the Grizzlies one year?”

“Yes, he did, he’s actually..”

“Why didn’t he make it? He looks pretty good.”

Yet even to dedicated NBA fans, many of the players on these teams are unfamiliar, strange names and strange games. Dedicated fans of international ball, suddenly available in the internet age, are able to recite their names and games. But they remain a mystery to most U.S. fans. Yet even the players NBA fans know don’t resemble the players who run the floor for the A.

Jose Calderon? Veteran sharpshooter and dynamic offensive leader, not defensive sieve and spot-up shooter, as he is with the Raps. Juan Carlos Navarro was a small-minute reserve player for a single season for the Grizzlies. He’s one of the best players in Euroleague history with his Spanish team, FC Barcelona.

Maybe no player epitomizes the difference than Patty Mills, though. Mills is a fourth-string point guard for the Spurs, and a legitimate star for Australia. He was a big part of Australia hanging around with Team USA on Wednesday, hitting perimeter shots and driving inside.

So what’s the deal? How can these players look this different in international play relative to their performance in the indisputable best league in the world?

There’s  a line of thought that suggests that internationalf coaches just know how to get the best from these players. That, of course, is insane. To suggest coaches like Dwane Casey, Nate McMillan, and Gregg Popovich don’t know how to evaluate the talents of these players and acclimate them throws out everything we know about NBA coaches. There are bad NBA coaches. There are bad international coaches. But the differential in production has more to do with style of play than it does quality of coaches. No one in the NBA is “missing” on these players. There’s a qualitative difference in how the NBA is played, and that style can bring out the abilities of players, with the more wide open structure, and the kind of defense that’s played.

This isn’t about which level of competition is more difficult, the NBA or international ball (HINT: It’s the NBA). It’s about a difference in approach and execution that leaves us with a game that is played with the same rules as the NBA, but is vastly different. Well, except for goaltending. That’s different. And some other things. And the ball is different. But other than that, same game. But the stylistic approach is where it diverges.

So we shouldn’t be surprised by these performances, nor should we slough them off. Calderon, Mills, Timofey Mozgov are all playing excellent, and deserve credit for leading their teams. But at the same time, we shouldn’t assume they’re capable of this in the NBA night after night, nor that there’s something wrong with how the NBA operates that they’re not executing at that level. There’s a great number of players who have struggled with the style in international play. Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, are two to start with.

Paul’s size gives him issues and the amount of pressure allowed in international play outside (while inside might as well be a demilitarized zone — no touching!) creates problems. He’s still very good for Team USA, because he’s Chis Paul. But he’s never the dominant point guard he is in the league.

Dwight Howard, absent from the 2012 team due to his recovery from back surgery, has similar problems. His game just doesn’t translate with the kind of floor spacing that goes on in international play and he accumulates fouls at a rookie-type level.

Do you really want to say that Chris Paul and Dwight Howard aren’t really that good at basketball?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

There’s nothing artificial about the players’ production in these games. It’s legitimate and honestly, refreshing as opposed to the slog of the NBA at times. But it’s no mistake made by the NBA or its coaches that they can’t excel. They are who they are in the NBA, and that’s how they should be judged, because it’s the best league in the world.

Unless you’re not an NBA fan. Then you can believe the ACB is. Or Euroleague. Or South American play. Anything you want.

But to bring the idea of somehow these games being indicative of who they really are as player is as disingenuous as saying their American counterparts aren’t trying. The world’s caught up with the U.S.. Well, not really. But they’re closer, and that leads to these fascinating ripples. Let’s not try and establish which way is better, let’s just enjoy the exposure on a different way to play basketball.

25 Observations about the Dwight Howard trade

Dwight Howard

25 observations about the Dwight Howard trade to send Howard to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets, Andrew Bynum to the Sixers, and very little to the Orlando Magic.

1. Let’s start with LA, since they’re the moneymaker for media and they get the best player. Wow. Holy Wow. Holy Geez Wow. The amount of talent on one team is just absurd.

2. We know where Nash fits, in the pick and roll with Howard. We know where Nash and Pau fit. We even know where Pau and Howard fit, with what we saw from Gasol’s lobs to Bynum last season. But where does Kobe fit in this? Pick and roll with Howard? Perimeter outlet shooter? Is he the winch at the elbow? How does tis work? Can he really deal with being a perimeter-outlet/ backcut scorer? That’s going to be a fascinating dynamic to watch. Beyond, you know, the general death and destruction this team will create on a nightly basis.

3. I thought that the Lakers would land Howard at the start, because it makes sense, right? Given what we know about the NBA, the Lakers getting what they want seems like a thing that would happen. I was convinced otherwise by Dwight and his agent’s constant scheming and pushing of the narrative, with all signs headed to Brooklyn, but looks like that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, it appears the Magic passed up what would have been a bad deal for the Magic with the Nets for an equally-bad-if-not-worse deal for the Magic with the four-team trade.

4. Howard gets warm weather, star power, a championship-contending team and will eventually get the money he wants. Because, really, when you look at everything he’s pulled in the last year, that seems fair.

5. For the Magic, I do think we need to give this trade some time before we react to it, but of course, no one will. They didn’t get rid of Hedo Turkoglu’s contract, despite it being with range of being dumpable, they didn’t lose Glen Davis’ contract, despite him having a surprisingly good year last year, they didn’t land an Eric Gordon player (who didn’t exist on the market). Getting Iguodala wouldn’t have helped him, at his age, salary, and role. Getting Bynum wouldn’t have helped them with his age, salary, and expiring nature (do you want to see how Bynum reacts to being on a lottery team? Because I don’t.) doesn’t help them. Getting Pau Gasol wouldn’t have helped them. We have to wait a year to see what they do in the draft and with the rest of the contracts on roster. But the lottery protections being reported on the picks make this really tough. That is the one element that makes it worse than the proposed Nets trade. You needed to at least have the possibility of getting a good pick if everything went haywire for a team.

6. It’s not a total loss for the Magic. Getting rid of the contracts of JRich and Duhon is considerable, and it’ll get lost but both Vucevic and Harkless are quality players. It doesn’t make up for the overall stench of the deal, but there is some potential there, and most of it is on easy-to-move contracts.

7. The Sixers finally got off the pot, to to speak. After talking about trading Andre Iguodala for four years, they finally pull the trigger and land the second-best center in the league. Bynum gives them the dominant offensive force they’ve been looking for, a go-to player who can also defend, and has no equal in the Eastern Conference. With a young, athletic roster and a great defensive system, the Sixers could challenge for the Atlantic title.

8. That’s assuming Bynum’s healthy. And motivated. And doesn’t kill Doug Collins. Or Collins kills him. So yeah, question marks.

9. The Sixers go from starting Hawes and Kwame Brown to likely bringing Brown off the bench and playing Thaddeus Young a high percentage of the time at the combo-forward spot. Oh, and they have Lavoy Allen. They have an army of bigs to throw at teams.

10. Denver is prepared to meet the athletic-wing hordes from Houston on the fields of battle with their own army.

11. Gallo moves back to the two-spot, where he was in New York, Wilson Chandler and Jordan Hamilton make up the reserve core, and the Nuggets have a more versatile playmaker who can also defend at an elite level. Big win for the Nuggets.

12. If you get an extension from the Nuggets, you might as well sell your house at this point.

13. Lawson-Iguodala-McGee is a pretty great core on its own, before you throw in Kenneth Faried and Gallinari. The Nuggets have about six guys who can defend multiple positions.

14. There’s not really a player that Iguodala doesn’t make better on that team. Lawson’s off-ball abilities will thrive with Iguodala on the floor, and McGee will prosper in the pick and roll. And he provides some veteran leadership in the locker room next to his old teammate Andre Miller.

15. Seriously, Steve-Nash-to-Dwight-Howard pick-and-roll. Run for your lives.

16. The Magic should have moved either Davis or Turkoglu in this deal, even with those deals not being as toxic as perceived. They should have gotten protection-free picks. They should have gotten a better prospect out of the deal or waited till one came available.

17. But then, they might have been able to had Howard not constantly and maliciously damaged their leverage at every turn.

18. Dwight Howard’s last act as an Orlando Magic player was skipping his own basketball camp… for kids.

19. Who’s ready for the Jameer Nelson-Aaron Afflalo-Moe Harkless-Glen Davis- Andrew Nicholson era?

20. Pau Gasol is now the fourth-best player on his team. Metta World Peace, an elite defender, is now fifth.

21. The Sixers have to be right there for the Atlantic now. And Jonas Valanciunas for the Raptors has to face Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Andrew Bynum, and Tyson Chandler 12 times a year. Somebody buy the kid a beer.

22. And hey, the trade didn’t get vetoed! So we’ve got that going for us. And by us, I mean everyone who didn’t want to hear complaints about the owner of a team rejecting a bad deal.

23. There will be a lot of backstory blame passed around the Magic organization to try and figure out who was in charge, ownership or Rob Hennigan. Not the way you wanted to start.

24. Remember when Melo-Amar’e was a powerful team-up? Remember when Deron Williams-Joe Johnson was big news?

25. We might just get that Heat-Lakers, LeBron-Kobe finals after all.

The Inbounds: Dwight Howard and the NBA’s arms race gone too far

Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard

“Weapons are like money, no one knows the meaning of enough.”

– Martin Amis

In 2008, it was the Celtics getting both an aging Kevin Garnett and an aging Ray Allen. Then it was the Lakers getting Pau Gasol, commonly a sub-star due to his market at the time. Then came The Decision, Melodrama, the Joe Johnson trade, Deron’s choice, and Steve Nash becoming a Laker.

And now, this. Dwight Howard will be a Laker. The Lakers will start Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard.

This arms race has gone too far.

Maybe it was always too far. Maybe the Decision really was the worst thing that could ever have happened to the sport, maybe it was the Celtics that started all this and it was unavoidable thereafter. Maybe it was New York’s opulence and brazen assault on the cap that lead to this. But either way, here we are. It was always going to be like this, from the moment Howard made his list of teams he wanted to play for, following Carmelo Anthony’s model of electing where he wanted and then maneuvering to get it. He was going to go to a big-market team with talent.

But this much talent?

The Heat have the best player in the game, a Hall of Fame shooting guard, and a hyper-versatile power forward. That’s an amazing team in its own right. But it has weaknesses. It relies on role players. The Lakers, even without a great bench, have a Hall of Fame point guard whose passing skills are bested by no one, the second-best shooting guard of all time, the best center in the league, and a hyper-versatile power forward. Who’s also seven feet tall.

The city of Los Angeles now features two teams with the following players on roster: Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, and Chauncey Billups. This is out of control.

The rest of the league can’t compete with this superstar accumulation, but then, we’re really just talking degrees, aren’t we? There have really only been about five teams in title contention each year. But the differential is so much greater now. Since 2008, the following players have moved to the small selection of cities: Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen (twice), Pau Gasol, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard. That’s an absolutely insane amount of star power to shift towards a handful of cities.

What may be even more stunning is that this was Howard’s second choice. He wanted the Brooklyn Nets, and had to settle for the Los Angeles Lakers. But it doesn’t change the trend. And while the Hornets have done a masterful job at rebuilding, the league is still divided into haves and have-nots.

And this may be too much.

It’s not even the on-court results. We expected mind-blowing things from the Heat, and they were only very good their first season together, and great their second. The Lakers have a lot of miles and years on the bones, and will have severe problems with any injuries. No, there are a great many ways this team can fail, and no need to start the count towards 73 wins yet. But the idea is the same.

And we’re running out of weapons for teams to accumulate.

There are only so many stars in the league, and most of them have headed to one coast or the other. Eventually we’ll run out of stars and things will solidify for a while. Teams will be capped out and unable to make moves for a while. But after the lockout of 2011, which was supposed to help teams with retaining their stars and minimizing the damage to small markets, it would appear that plan has failed. The Hornets can be a good team, but will they be better than they were with Chris Paul? Will the Magic, even if everything goes right, be better?

No, but league ratings will be higher, jersey sales will skyrocket, ticket prices will soar. The league will be a bigger, more profitable place for everyone, and maybe that’s better than market equality, since it’ll at least stabilize the market. But if any other teams are to even compete for a championship, they have to do with efficiency and smart, under-the-radar moves that surprise. Development is a bigger element than it ever has been. The missing pieces is never going to come, because they’ve all already moved to their new location.

There just aren’t enough players left out there to share with the rest of the league.

The Lakers have more starpower than they’ve ever had in the history of their franchise. Think about that. Teams with the Captain and Magic had less star power than the currently assembled team. They managed to send out Andrew Bynum, to get Dwight Howard, and not give up Pau Gasol. The NBA’s premier franchise has not only put itself back in orbit, it’s the biggest ship in the cosmos. The NBA’s arms race has reached a new level, and it was all done within the confines of a new, more difficult CBA.

For two years, the Lakers have been embarrassed in second-round exits. You can consider this the reckoning. The Lakers don’t rebuild, and they don’t reload. They just absorb the brightest stars and add their shine to their own.