From: The Commish
As great as this past year has been, I’m a little skittish about what may or may not be lurking just past the horizon. Did you see what happened to the NFL these past few weeks. Chad took “corny” to extreme levels when he changed his name, Brady’s injury left the league without its marquee player and one of the most promising youngsters, Vince Young, is allegedly teetering on the edge of a breakdown. I don’t want any of this going down in my league. So please, see to it that Kobe and LeBron play in at least 75 games, make sure Gil doesn’t go yahoo on us and legally change his name to Agent Zero (although I’m all for Caron Butler changing his name to Tough Juice) and I’m putting Adam Morrison and Kwame Brown on permanent suicide watch. We don’t have the built-in stock of goodwill that the NFL enjoys, so it’s imperative that the ’08 season and summer is followed by another banger.
I want you all to understand just how crucial this summer’s gold medal is to the continued domestic growth of the league. Although the Redeem Team ranks a fairly distant third behind the Dream Team and the 1996 Olympic squad talent-wise, they might have proven to be the most important of the three. The Dream Team’s impact was felt more on the international stage. Here, in America, it was more of a novel exhibition of dominance. There wasn’t as much “larger meaning” as to what’s attached with the Redeem Team coming back stateside with gold medals. Their performance was the capstone on a 12-month span where we witnessed a league renaissance. Anything but a gold medal and all this Platinum Age rhetoric would have been rendered moot before Melo cried his first tear. Forgetting the international implications of the squad’s performance on the grandest of international stages, in a country that houses 1/6 of the worlds population; the more poignant story found the league’s biggest stars reclaiming bragging rights and doing so in a way that discredits the American-judges collective assertion that NBA stars are selfish and spoiled. There was no pouting, no arguing, very little posturing and game after game of inspired ball where — get this — defense was the squad’s hallmark. The league didn’t need re-imaging in 1992. It was needed 16 years later and Kobe-Bron-DWade and company delivered.
Speaking of Team USA, I want Jerry Colangelo to continue in his role and hire Pop as the next coach. I want Howard and Boozer off the squad, replaced by Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden. Give Kevin Durant Michael Redd’s spot. Brandon Roy gets JKidd’s spot. Kobe will be 34 in 2012. If he decides against returning, I’m leaning toward Michael Beasley. Everyone else, including Tayshaun Prince, should be welcomed back.
Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur will not be invited. I’ve seen a lot during my stewardship. Latrell choked out Carlesimo. Horry threw a towel at Ainge. Reggie Evans grabbing dudes’ balls. The Brawl. But nothing has been more disrespectful than this Mario Chalmers-Darrell Arthur fiasco. Part of the reason that the league is a much better behaved collective is because of rookie training, something that wasn’t in place until relatively recently. This is not some obtrusive program meant to emasculate and condescend to the young men, it’s training we provide out of genuine concern for how they begin a life that is in stark contrast to anything they’ve known. Bimbos, blunts — we use this program to help them steer clear of those pitfalls or, at least, warn against the kind of trouble they bring. How do these knuckleheads respond? By defiantly indulging in — or I should say “getting caught with” — those very vices. That showed a complete lack of judgment and a startling lack of respect.
What’s the deal with LeBron? Couldn’t he have played his Cowboy fandom low-key? He could have sat in a luxury and chilled, then went crazy with the fraternizing in the visitors’ locker room. Bron’s allegiance to the Yankees, Cowboys and Bulls — the quintessential front-running trio of his generation — is understandable and his prerogative. What’s bothering me is the way he’s antagonizing the hometown fans. I’m displeased — he needs to know this.
I was actually happy to see Childress and his ‘fro head to Greece. I’m not even slightly worried about the recent Euro-exodus by the players’ middle-class. And the very thought of Kobe or LeBron playing overseas is farcical. While this is en vogue, however, here’s a list of players that I want sent overseas: Brian Cook, Eddie House, Damon Jones, Bruce Bowen, Adam Morrison, J.J. Redick, Joakim Noah, Kevin Martin, Raja Bell. They all annoy me — so make it happen, staff.
Brett came back. Lance is on his way back. Let Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, GP and Reggie Miller know that I will tolerate no such thing.
It was appropriate that we elected Pat Ewing and Hakeem the Dream into the Hall, together. What perplexes me is how Dream became my favorite big man of the Golden Age, when it was Ewing that played for my Hoyas and the home-state Knicks; while Dream’s Rockets knocked off my Lakers a few times in the 80s. Ultimately, it comes down to my inability to dismiss the type of excellence he displayed from 1993-1996. Over the past 20 years, only MJ and Shaq have dominated and won to that degree. Ewing is Top 30, Dream is Top 12…and I don’t think Ewing would argue.
Vincent Thomas is a columnist and feature writer for SLAM. He can be reached at email@example.com.