Time for FIBA/NBA to adopt soccer model: Only one major tournament every four years


Team USA rolled easily through the World Cup, winning gold and no team getting closer than 21 points to an American squad lacking a lot of the top stars of the NBA.

That brought out some sharp knives from the anti-FIBA crowd — a group usually led by owners who don’t like their players taking risks when they don’t profit, and quality college coaches like John Calipari on the outside of the Mike Krzyzewski/Jerry Colangelo circle of power. Taking up their banner in an aggressive, must-read column was Adrain Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, who wrote this in the hours after Team USA was dancing on the podium.

Outside of Derrick Rose using FIBA as a Double-A rehab assignment and some sportswriters beefing up on Marriott points for post-summer vacations, this tournament was a waste of everyone’s time and resources. They used to call it the World Championships. Now it’s the World Cup of Basketball. This is certain: It has outlived its usefulness for the NBA, and owners and executives will be wise to petition FIBA to reshape the future of international basketball.

As one GM told Yahoo Sports, “[Outside of the U.S. team], there’s more talent and more interest from basketball fans in the NBA summer league than this event.”

First off, Marriott points are important. Never underestimate what traveling NBA writers will do for them. Also the statement about American fans caring more about Summer League than the World Cup is fact.

Wojnarowski advocates not sending our best players to international events anymore.

There certainly are some legitimate concerns about the grind FIBA events puts on NBA players — particularly international players. For the USA Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and LeBron James can all stay home and it doesn’t matter, we win easily. The real pressure is on the Pau Gasols and Tony Parkers (and other non-NBA stars) where the country doesn’t have the depth of talent and their chances to do well fall fast when a player begs out.

(I’m not going to get into Wojnarowski’s anti-Kryzyzewski rant, that’s a power play for college coaches that has land mines of biases and agendas on every side. And it is moot to my point.)

But the other side is it’s not just up to NBA owners and GMs — the NBA stars want to do this. Kevin Love reportedly was near tears when he called Colangelo and had to say he would not join Team USA this summer. Yes, part of it is those players get pressure from their shoe companies (Nike still has a lot of sway with Team USA) and other sponsors to step on the biggest international stages. But also some guys really want to represent their country and want that gold medal on their resume — DeMarcus Cousins kept coming back year after year to prove he and his game had matured to the point USA Basketball needed him. And he got it. Giannis Antetokounmpo raved about playing for Greece. We could go on and on here. Who cares if fans back stateside don’t really care about the World Cup, the players and the rest of the world does.

Some want to see a standoff.

But basketball and the NBA are not the first sport or league at this crossroads — soccer has been there. And come out with a plan that works for them.

Soccer has one major tournament every four years (the World Cup) and the qualifying that runs up to it, but the Olympics are an under-22 showcase event. Other international tournaments get spotty participation.

FIBA and the NBA (not to mention the top leagues in Spain, Italy, Turkey, etc…) could come to a deal here. For marketing reasons and the platform here in the USA, it would make more sense to have the Olympics as the showcase event (and expand that to a 24-team tournament) and have the World Cup become the under-22 event. (Yes, I realize FIBA would not love this arrangement, I’m just saying from the American perspective this makes the most sense. Switch the World Cup and Olympics standing and you get the same result.)

Will there still be injuries and risks? Of course. Paul George’s injury was a fluke but the kind that will happen again. It’s happened in soccer: As a Newcastle fan I watched Michael Owen blow out his knee in the 2006 World Cup and knew we’d lost him for the season. It’s part of it.

The idea is to lessen the demand on players to go home and play seemingly every summer for their national teams and wear themselves down. However, once every four years they can don the uniform of Lithuania or Greece or wherever and represent their country with pride. Let the players pick their spots. The idea is finding a balance that doesn’t currently exist. The NBA owners don’t control the players, nor does FIBA and their national teams.

FIBA itself will make finding that balance hard. They benefit from a major tournament on each continent plus a World Cup plus Olympics and they have about the same moral compass as FIFA.

The NBA may have to take unilateral steps first. That’s fine — so long as it is a negotiated deal with the players. The owners and the NBA don’t get to decide if and when the players can represent their country. That’s a negotiated deal.

Still, the model is there to make this work better. It’s just a matter of getting everybody on the bandwagon.

Celtics interim coach Mazzulla to coach Team Giannis in All-Star Game

New York Knicks (120) Vs. Boston Celtics (117) At TD Garden (OT)
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

One way to remove the “interim” tag from your coaching resume is to earn the right to coach in the All-Star Game.

Boston Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzula and his staff will coach Team Giannis in the All-Star Game this season. It became official when the 76ers fell to the Magic on Tuesday night, ensuring the Celtics would have the best record in the East by the cut-off date this Sunday.

The Celtics are 36-15 and in first place in the Eastern Conference, even though they have lost 3-of-4 (and needed overtime and a bad no-call on a LeBron James potential game-winner to get that victory). They have a top-five offense and defense in the league and have looked like the team to beat since the start of the season, even if they have had a few injuries and looked bored with the regular season of late.

Mazzulla deserves credit for helping the team move past former coach Ime Udoka was suspended due to an improper affair with a franchise employee. It could have been a distraction that blew up the Boston season, but he got them focused beyond that, and with that could get some Coach of the Year votes (in a crowded field).

First, however, he has to coach the All-Star Game.

Are Pistons going to hold on to Bojan Bodanovic into next season?

Milwaukee Bucks v Detroit Pistons
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For much of the run-up to the Feb. 9 trade deadline, Bojan Bogdanovic has been one of the best and most discussed players available. The 6’8″ wing who can knock down 3s and do some secondary shot creation could help a lot of teams.

One of those is the Pistons, who want to take a big step forward next season. Bogdanovic told Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype the front office spoke to him, and it doesn’t sound like he will get traded.

“Having conversations with the club, Troy [Weaver, general manager] and the owners, they assured me that we’re going to be great next year,” Bogdanovic said. “We have a lot of cap space to sign great players. We’re going to have a high pick again, so that’s going to help us a lot. We have a great young group of guys. When Cade [Cunningham] went down, that kind of hurt us big time. We were thinking that maybe we’d be fighting for the play-in tournament, but when he went down, he was our main guy. All of our offensive strategies were connected to him. When he went down, our season, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs without him.”

The Pistons reportedly have set the price for Bogdanovic at an unprotected first-round pick, which is very steep. This may simply be a case of Detroit being willing to keep Bogdanovic around if nobody wants to meet that price. They did just extend him for two years, $39.1 million and he would be the kind of professional veteran that is good to have in the locker room around a younger team.

Bogdanovic, for his part, would rather not hear the rumors.

“I heard the rumors, but I’m trying to stay away from those conversations,” Bogdanovic said. “I don’t even have any social media like Twitter. I don’t read much about that. It’s not in my control. It’s about the franchises. I’m just going to try and stay focused and play as best I can. Then, we’ll see what’s going to happen at the end of the trade deadline.”

The rumors are not going anywhere, they will stick around through the trade deadline. Bogdanovic may as well.

Report: Mavericks looking for another star at trade deadline. Good luck with that.

Toronto Raptors v Sacramento Kings
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Two things are true. First, the painted-over mural was right, the Dallas Mavericks desperately need a second star to go next to Luka Dončić. Second, they have backed themselves into a corner without the trade assets or cap space to easily make that happen.

It may be a longshot, but the Mavericks are open to trading anyone but Dončić to find that second star at the deadline, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reminds us.

It shouldn’t be a surprise Dallas is open to this, of course they are.

The challenges start with, what star is available? The best player maybe on the market right now is John Collins or Bojan Bogdanovic, and while both would help the Mavericks neither is changing the team’s fortunes the way they would hope.

If Toronto decides to become sellers things get interesting. However, as of the latest reports, they are on the fence and telling teams they are waiting to decide what they will do at the deadline (sell, stand pat, or become buyers). Fred VanVleet could be available, and would essentially be a Jalen Brunson replacement, certainly a step up from where the Mavericks are currently. However, the Clippers and others could drive up the asking price, plus the Mavericks would have to step up and pay him this summer, VanVleet is expected to opt out of his $22.8 million contract. O.G. Anunoby would be a great fit next to Dončić, but he is not a star, he is more of a high-level role player.

Pascal Siakam could be that second star next to Dončić, a 6’8″ wing who can finish at the rim, shoot 3s, and would be a great secondary shot creator. It’s a good fit. Siakam is not an elite defender — Dallas would want some 3&D guys added to the roster — but he would be the kind of addition Dallas needs.

Dallas can offer its three first-round picks starting in 2024, but is some combination of those picks and Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood and Dorian Finney-Smith going to entice the Raptors? They will look for a massive package for Siakam and likely see better offers than Dallas can construct.

It may not be easy to pull off, and likely will wait until the offseason (at the earliest), but know the Mavericks are serious about a second star.

Knicks reportedly very interested in Anunoby, if Raptors make him available

Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors
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The Toronto Raptors are the one team that could move this trade deadline from a dud to shaking up the playoff race. There are 29 other GMs waiting to see what Massai Ujiri will do, and when they called, they’ve been told “the franchise will make a decision about being a buyer or seller – or standing pat – near deadline day,” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

If Toronto does decide to trade a player beyond the expected Gary Trent Jr., then the Knicks want to be at the front of the line for defensive wing O.G. Anunoby, Charania reports.

The Knicks and Suns are among the interested suitors in Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby, sources say. New York has shown a willingness to offer multiple first-round picks for Anunoby, according to those sources. The Suns, meanwhile, have control of all of their first-round picks — eight in total —through 2030. SNY first reported the Knicks’ interest last week.

There would be a lot of teams in line for Anunoby, but he is a very Thibodeau-style player — an All-Defensive Team level wing stopper who can finish and is averaging 16.9 points per game — so you can see where the interest comes from. Anunoby also is just 25 and is locked in next season at $18.6 million. While the demand for wings in general is lower this trade season — point guards and centers are more in demand — a lot of teams could use a player the quality of Anunoby. Including the Knicks.

Getting him won’t be cheap — two unprotected first-round picks (or lightly protected) with matching salary would be the price range.

All of that is moot if the Raptors don’t make him available, which is what everyone is waiting to see.