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Team USA perilously low on star power

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In the aftermath of Team USA’s stunning and disappointing bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics, then-NBA commissioner David Stern called Jerry Colangelo.

“We’ve got to re-do our whole USA Basketball program,” Colangelo recounted Stern saying.

Colangelo took over. He preached commitment. He emphasized expectations. He changed how Team USA was selected, how it trained, how it traveled (“no entourages and no families,” Colangelo said).

The plan paid dividends in the very next Olympics. The Americans won gold in the 2008 Games (and, since, 2012 and 2016).

But too much emphasis has been placed on cultural modifications.

Why did Team USA perform better? Better players.

Whatever adjustments Colangelo made in USA Basketball’s setup were only the means to an end. The United States’ improvements were nearly completely due to an improved roster.

In 2004, only one All-NBA player participated (Tim Duncan). In 2008, Team USA had six All-NBA players (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer).

That’s the difference.

With several stars sitting out the 2019 FIBA World Cup, the U.S. is once again veering toward a talent danger zone. An American gold medal shouldn’t be assumed.

Only one All-NBA player is set to play for the Americans in China this year – Kemba Walker, a third-teamer.

The World Cup (formerly called the World Championship) typically draws less star power than the Olympics. But even by World Cup standards, this U.S. roster is quite lacking.

To rate a Team USA’s star power, I used All-NBA selections the same year. The scoring system follows All-NBA voting – five points for first team, three points for second team, one point for third team.

Here’s every Olympics and World Cup/World Championship since NBA players began competing in 1992. Olympics are red. World Cups/World Championships are blue. The background color represents the United States’ medal:

gold (1)

2019 World Cup

  • Kemba Walker (third)

2016 Olympics

2014 World Cup

2012 Olympics

2010 World Championship

  • Kevin Durant (first)

2008 Olympics

  • Dwight Howard (first)
  • Chris Paul (first)
  • LeBron James (first)
  • Kobe Bryant (first)
  • Deron Williams (second)
  • Carlos Boozer (third)

2006 World Championship

  • LeBron James (first)
  • Elton Brand (second)
  • Dwyane Wade (second)
  • Carmelo Anthony (third)

2004 Olympics

  • Tim Duncan (first)

2002 World Championship

  • Jermaine O’Neal (third)
  • Paul Pierce (third)
  • Ben Wallace (third)

2000 Olympics

  • Gary Payton (first)
  • Jason Kidd (first)
  • Kevin Garnett (first)
  • Alonzo Mourning (second)
  • Vince Carter (third)

1998 World Championship

None

1996 Olympics

  • Penny Hardaway (first)
  • Scottie Pippen (first)
  • David Robinson (first)
  • Karl Malone (first)
  • Hakeem Olajuwon (second)
  • Grant Hill (second)
  • John Stockton (second)
  • Gary Payton (second)
  • Reggie Miller (third)
  • Charles Barkley (third)
  • Mitch Richmond (third)
  • Shaquille O’Neal (third)

1994 World Championship

  • Kevin Johnson (second)
  • Shawn Kemp (second)
  • Derrick Coleman (third)
  • Shaquille O’Neal (third)
  • Mark Price (third)
  • Dominique Wilkins (third)

1992 Olympics

  • Chris Mullin (first)
  • Clyde Drexler (first)
  • Michael Jordan (first)
  • David Robinson (first)
  • Karl Malone (first)
  • Charles Barkley (second)
  • Patrick Ewing (second)
  • Scottie Pippen (second)
  • John Stockton (second)

This is the United States’ second-weakest All-NBA representation of this era. Only the 1998 World Championship team had less. Anticipating a lockout, NBA players didn’t participate. Instead, USA Basketball turned to college players, minor-leaguers and Americans playing professionally abroad. The group won bronze.

The next-lowest Team USA by All-NBA points was the 2002 World Championship squad. Only third-teamers Paul Pierce and Ben Wallace played that year. The Americans finished sixth – a precursor to their 2004 Olympic flop.

After that, it’s a tie between the 2004 Olympic bronze medalists and 2010 World Championship gold medalists. Lacking stars doesn’t preclude a U.S. victory. Likewise, having stars doesn’t guarantee one. The 2006 squad had the most All-NBA points of an American World Cup/World Championship team in this era and still finished third.

But every time the Americans have come up short of gold, they’ve been low on star power.

The United States faces a couple key disadvantages. With an ever-churning roster, the U.S. lacks the cohesion of other top competitors. The U.S. is also less comfortable with international rules and style of play.

Elite talent compensates.

It just won’t much this year.

At least Team USA is slated to include a couple non-All-NBA All-Stars, Khris Middleton and Kyle Lowry. Kemba Walker is also used to lacking star teammates.

Why are so many American stars staying home? There are multiple reasons. Among them: More foreign players are occupying the All-NBA spots I’m using to measure stardom.

Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece will be the best player in the tournament. Another All-NBA first-teamer, Nikola Jokic, will play for Serbia. Second-teamer Joel Embiid is Cameroonian.

The U.S. can still win the World Cup. There’s no shortage of Americans who are good players. But with fewer stars, assembling a roster of players whose skills complement each other will be more important than ever.

Jamal Crawford finds it “baffling” no team has called to sign him yet

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Iman Shumpert got his call from the Brooklyn Nets.

Carmelo Anthony got his call from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Jamal Crawford is still waiting for his call, and he’s confused why it hasn’t yet come. From Shaun Powell of NBA.com.

“I know I can play,” Crawford told NBA.com, “and I would think my reputation is still solid. It’s baffling to me…

“Physically, I feel better than I did last season,” he said. “I’m able to get my body together. My skill set is sharp. I feel that I’m good. My mindset is be patient and hopefully something good comes about it. I’ll be ready for the opportunity.”

Like Anthony, Crawford needs the right role, but he can help teams.

He’s not young at age 39 but, in the right situation, he could help a team get buckets off the bench. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year has slowed in recent years, and his defense is a bigger concern to front offices, but the man still averaged 7.9 points per game last season off the bench and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last season (including a 51-point game against Dallas). 

Some team is going to give Crawford a chance. Probably. Until then, he is staying ready, waiting for the phone to ring.

 

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks over not one but two Pacers (VIDEO)

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Once Giannis Antetokounmpo gets rolling downhill, good luck.

The Pacers found that out the hard way with not one but two players getting dunked on by the Greek Freak. On the same dunk.

Damn. That’s not fair.

It’s also not the only highlight play for Antetokounmpo on the night.

Milwaukee was up double digits on the Pacers early in the fourth quarter, and of course, Antetokounmpo was leading the way.

NBA teams enhancing fan experience with high-tech replays

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ATLANTA (AP) — NBA fans will soon be able to look up at the big videoboard above the court and get a different look at that deep Trae Young 3-pointer early in the first quarter. Or see a different perspective of that monstrous Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk.

In a reversal of roles, NBA teams are bringing the video game experience back to the live action – one arena at a time.

The Atlanta Hawks Friday will become the fifth NBA team to unveil significant financial investments into new 360-degree replay technology designed to eventually give fans the power to change the way they see the game.

“It’s the wave of the future,” said Hawks vice-president of live experience Joe Abercrombie, who says the technology also is “one more thing to give people a reason to come” to the arena.

The Bucks, Mavericks, Pacers, Wizards and now the Hawks are using the technology to package and replay highlights in the arena during games. The Bulls, who host the 2020 All-Star game, are scheduled to come online next month.

“It’s very nice. I especially like that up-above view,” said Allen Hazlett a fan from New Berlin, Wisconsin, after seeing the new technology at Thursday night’s Bulls-Bucks game in Milwaukee.

“I think it’s an added benefit for the fans. For those that aren’t here all the time, to see that, I think, really ups the fan experience for them. I don’t think people realize until you go somewhere else and you don’t see it how lucky we are to have this arena. Everything here is state of the art.”

The six teams have joined NBA partner Intel, which provides the technology for the new video replays. The process begins with 38 5K video cameras strategically located around arenas. The high-tech cameras work together, bringing 360-degree replays to in-game video boards, TV broadcasts and fans’ devices through social media.

It’s the latest effort by teams to entice ticket-buying fans to come to new and renovated NBA arenas. Atlanta spent almost $200 million to renovate State Farm Arena; Milwaukee last year opened its $477 Fiserv Forum.

“For us it was really a no-brainer,” said Matt Pazaras, the Bucks’ senior vice president for business development and strategy.

“There’s nothing like seeing a Giannis dunk live, and if we can supplement that experience with this technology, great. But if people are experiencing the Bucks wherever they are, hours away or thousands of miles away, we can still make the experience better.”

NFL fans already have seen 360 replays on TV. Those replays start from the traditional side camera before swinging around to bring the viewer behind the quarterback.

Not that the NFL was first in line.

Gamers have been manipulating all-angle replays for years. Video game-savvy kids may roll their eyes when their parents come home from NBA games eager to share their stories about their first looks at 360-degree replays.

Those video games were designed to mimic the real games. Now it’s time for some role-reversal.

Rich Green, Intel’s director of sports, said popular video games Madden NFL 19 and NBA 2K20 “have camera angles and if you do replays, you can spin the camera around.”

Added Green: “Now we’re going to have that in live games. Now they can watch their favorite player and follow just him. It increases their level of engagement.”

The new technology isn’t just for the fans.

Coaches and scouts can make use of the enhanced replays to improve player evaluations.

“I think the future of this is going to weigh heavy for basketball operations and player development,” Abercrombie said.

Players now have better tools to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Abercrombie said players who take dozens of shots in a practice can now study their shooting form in a new way.

“Players have asked ‘Can I shootaround and you take a look at the way I’m shooting and I want to spin around and take a look at the way I’m releasing,”‘ he said. “You think about traditional coverage of a game, there’s only four angles. Two on the floor and two up.

“When you think about 360 view and repetitive shooting over and over again, they can say ‘Oh, I see where my tendencies are.”‘

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, a former executive at Turner Entertainment, says TV sports leaders have dreamed for years of the day fans could control the way they watch a game.

“We’ve been reading for years that ‘You can be the director,”‘ Koonin said. “Actually, you can do that with this. The capabilities are unbelievable. … We think it’s the next generation of sports media.”

Green said there is more to come as new ways to utilize the technology will be found that are not yet possible.

Green said such high-tech terms as “voxels” – similar to pixels in the 3D age – and “volumetric video” will become common. He said fans will be able to follow a game from the viewpoint of their favorite player.

“How you watch a play could be completely different from how I watch it based on how we control what angle we want to see,” Green said. “That’s why we’re just scratching the surface.”

 

Watch Lance Stephenson get into flopping battle in China

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You can take the flopper out of the NBA but you can’t take the flopping out of his game.

Unable to land an NBA contract this season, Lance Stephenson signed with the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association. He has taken his flopping skills to China.

However, he may have met his match with one Chinese player, who tried to sell a non-contact, off-the-ball, sniper-in-the-grassy-knoll level flop that even legendary flopper Vlade Divac would have called extreme. The Chinese referees saw through that and awarded a technical to Stephenson’s team.

Then Stephenson drew another foul later in the game with a flop as he tried to grab the ball away from a player after the play. That drew a foul on the opposing player, who complained and then got his own technical.

It’s all just Lance being Lance.