Saturday, August 23rd, 2008 at 6:10 am  |  30 responses

Basketball Equality? I Think Not

Team USA has the clear-cut advantage

by Alan Paul

I covered the USA/Argentina game last night. I pretty much am in sync with Lang’s thoughts. I was practically screaming at the court during that second quarter when the team seemed to collectively lose their mind.

For my NBC.com column I focused on the comparison between USA and international basketball, blowing up the myth that the talent has truly equalized. Here it is.

Key paragraph:

In this whole Olympics tournament there are only four non-Americans who have ever been NBA All Stars – Manu Ginobli, Andrei Kirilenko, Dirk Nowtizki and Yao Ming. Carlos Delfino, who starts for Argentina, struggled for years to get regular playing time in the NBA – he was barely in the League’s top 200 players — before heading to Europe this year.

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  • http://usanthony.blogspot.com/ Anthony Taurus

    I have to agree. The Dream Team had to actually put in work this time.

    But, I also have to point out the dirtier truth: the US players, individually, are still better, in my opinion. Fortunately, basketball is a team sport and not one on one. So, yes they did need better court management.

    BUT, no one should start thinking the talent is on par just yet. Remember, the US system is much tougher so the players are going to be on a higher level.

    What we saw on the court was like an infectious laziness after Ginobli’s was out. Team play, along with individual talent, means nothing if you’re lazy on the court.

  • http://gotahero.blogspot.com Spark

    Team USA said they got lazy and lax when Ginobli left, so that was their own fault. Argentina fought harder when he left.

  • Captain America

    Agreed. Individual American NBA players are generally more talented than elsewhere. And, frankly, for all the talk and speculation, it has always been that way.

  • http://andotsiry.deviantart.com/gallery/ Tsiry

    Pau Gasol has been an all-star once

  • Sean

    What you guys gotta realise is that alot of these teams have been playing together since they were 12-14 years old. They know each others games inside out. Especially the European teams….Has talent equalized? Depends on how you look at it. If its the end result that counts, then really you gotta wait until the end of the games to make a decision. I would lean towards no at the moment, but, if you asked me before the olympics started I might have given you a different answer.

  • Sean

    To add one more thing. The American media complaining about the Argentinians flopping is BS! Referees are there for a reason and I, personally, do not for one minute think they have any bias towards the Argentians!! If the situation was that obvious, as far as im concerned, they would pick it out and deal with it accordingly.

  • Jackie Moon

    No, talent has not equalized. It’s just gotten to the point where the international teams can win if the US does not take it’s preparation seriously/and or has an off day. That’s a sign of progress. The US is still a heavy favorite, but it’s something that the other teams have a chance to win, even if that chance is small. And with the medal rounds, it’s just like the NCAA tournament, where upsets are common.

  • Boing Dynasty

    Nobody said europeans had caught up with americans individually as stars and espcially not in the NBA game. There advantage has always been familiatiety with the international game and team work, due to more time spent playing togeather. No one ever said there are as many great individual european talents as there are american. So this post(and im guessing your NBC post too) is kind of pointless. Hi-Five.

  • Jackie Moon

    *and/or (I misplaced the slash, and I’m not talking about Kordell Stewart or the GNR guitarist)

  • Jeronimo

    Well said, Tsiry!!

  • FM

    “The Argentines flop more than a Madonna movie and behave with a whiny churlishness that would have the American players castigated as international pariahs.”

    haha nice! the greeks, spaniards and lithuanians also know a thing or two about flopping and whining (not to mention jersey-pulling and having running conversations with the ref instead of playing D.)

    the cynicism that seems to seep from these Euro players’ pores really grinds my gears.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    the talent has not equalized and i doubt it ever will. I don’t necessarily believe its a playing style problem either. When was the last time USA actually sent their TOP players? It was probably back when they still won by 20 consistently. No other country has the depth to compete with the players USA has. If you send the best you don’t even need a 3 yr commitment. As for the international talent, I think you’ll continue to see good players come up from different countries that weren’t known for basketball, but as for talent-filled teams like Spain, Argentina, etc. I think its a temporary thing. None of these int’l powers have a nice collection of young talent except for Spain and maybe Australia (but i think their young guys have topped off). Once the Ginobilis and Nowitzki’s finish playing I think the int’l teams will be similar to the 90s where they only had 1 or big names, and the talent won’t be concentrated in a few teams, but spread around different countries. China might be an exception, they might be able to keep developing young guys, but I think that has to do more with china trying to be the best rather than basketball.

  • Stevie-boy

    I’ve got a younger brother. I used to beat him eveytime we played. Now, he can beat me every now and then, but if I try; if I concentrate; I can beat him whenever I want.
    That’s where the USA is now.
    Couple of years time, it may be different.
    But for now, if the USA play their best, they win.

  • José Luis

    I disagree

    Pau Gasol was all star, three years ago

  • Emphasis

    How can you guys say the talent has not equalized when, in the past decade, international players are continuously taken in the lottery? Yao, Bogut, and Bargnani are all number 1 picks! Rubio is next, but we still say that international players are beginning to become as talented as US players? Look at Patrick Mills! He tore apart the U.S. pg’s defense in TWO games. Rubio has a very good chance to be a great NBA player if he wants to be, but with the way people are being payed overseas, there might not be a point in him coming over. And consider this: Argentina lost to the U.S. by 20 without Ginobili and with Nocioni playing on one leg. And yes, I know the U.S. was up 30-11 at the end of the first quarter. But when was the last time a game was stopped at the end of the first quarter? To be successful, you must play 48 minutes (or 40 in the FIBA game) of basketball. I’m not saying Argentina would have beaten the U.S., but had Ginobili and Nocioni been healthy, that game would have been close (5 to 10 pt. range). And the Rockets really need to give Luis Scola the ball more.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    Emphasis: draft picks aren’t an exact science, a lot of the int’l high draft picks where picked based on potential, and many, like Darko, didn’t pay off. Also, losing by 5-10 pts is still a deficit, as in behind, as in not equal, so the talent has not equalized. USA doesn’t send the best of the best, imagine if KG and Amare replaced Boozer and dwight? Or tmac and Chauncey replaced Kidd and Tayshaun? The USA is already deeper than any other int’l team and they can still upgrade a few spots. What other team can do that? Even argentina, with a healthy Manu/Nocioni can’t compete with that.

  • Jackie Moon

    RV: Talent will equalize, someday, as long as basketball remains popular globally. It might be 10 years, it might be 20. This much is true, it’s only going to get harder for the USA to blow other countries out in future tournaments. That really isn’t a knock against the USA, it’s more about how other countries have room to improve, while the USA is already at the top of their game.

  • http://www.myspace.com/hemantsbeats what

    The only advantage the Euros have is familiarity with FIBA rules and their teammates. As far as talent is concerned it’s not even close, the Americans have them beat easily. Talent shouldn’t even be part of the discussion. I wonder if Ginobili would even get minutes if he was on the USA team, ahead of Kobe, Lebron, etc.?

  • http://www.myspace.com/hemantsbeats what

    Also I kinda doubt talent will ever equalize… elite athletes in the rest of the world are always going to go for soccer ahead of basketball, whereas that’s certainly not the case in the USA.

  • Jeronimo

    @ RV: If T-Mac replaced anybody in Team USA, Team USA wouldn’t have made it out of the quarterfinals. (Just being mean)

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    what, c’mon now, although the talent overall hasn’t equalized, Ginobili is one the best (if not the best) int’l player out there and he’d definitely get some minutes with USA, maybe even more than Lebron and Kobe if he had his A game going.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    @Jackie, i’m not so sure, when i think of basketball being “globalized”, i see it reaching farther and a lot more different countries than ever. I see it causing courts to be built in India or Thailand or the NBA finals being televised in Kazakhstan. Spreading all over the world, however I don’t think it will seep deep down in those areas to the point where they have olympic teams or leagues. Sure there’s always going to be those few kids who fall in love with the game and have the resources/opportunities to keep their dream going and reach basketball fame one day, but its just not as easy to play with extremely limited resources (like soccer). Just look at Canada, they are right next door and although basketball is popular the talent isn’t there. Steve Nash is one of those few that kept the dream going and he almost went with soccer instead. Now i’m not sure what Canada’s situation is, don’t think its liited resources, probably just more emphasis on other things, just like it also is in other countries.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    well its USA basketball bay-bee!! Deal with it, the best contry at ball in the world is number one agian? What, me worry? USA for the gold like the cap on pimpin’s tooth

  • http://slamonline.com Alan Paul

    Lots of good points. sorry about missing out on Pau as an All Star.

    The whining, fopping and surliness of European players is really too much and not that commented on.

    Scola is clealry very underutilized by the Rockets.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    I think Scola WILL BE underutilized by the Rockets, as in this year, last year Scola has some slip ups while he tried to adjust. He kept getting into foul trouble th4e first half of the year, and the second half he kept hesitating on his jumper, next year he should be more comfortable, but won’t get a lot of touches on a loaded team. The good thing is he won’t complain.

  • http://slamonline.com Deno

    As long as soccer aka “football” remains the most popular of the worlds sports it might be a little while it’s a math thing. Lets say on average in the usa you have 10 teens. On average I’d say 4 are playing baseball, 3 are putting on football helmets and the other 3 are lacing up the b-ball kicks. While around the world 8 are bending it like Beckham, 1 might be on the diamond and 1 lonely soul is trying to be like Manu! lol j/k

  • http://www.myspace.com/hemantsbeats what

    RV… I’m not saying Ginobili is not a good player, what I’m saying is that talent-wise he’s nowhere close to Kobe and LeBron. Just purely from a physical standpoint he’s nowhere close.

  • andrew

    I guess the major point is, China aside, it’s gotta be a matter of population. America has an incredible junior basketball system – the high school/college ball system is so well put together, so well scouted and so darn big that no other country could ever really compete with it. And Deno summed it up pretty well – the rest of the world cares about soccer more… Basketball will never be on the same level in any other country in terms of participation and spectators (again, China aside) as it is in America. I know Europeans are crazy about it (as evidenced by euroleague and NBA Europe Live), but until soccer is toppled as number one, every other country will never be as good as America. The USA will get touched up every now and then (see Athens/Japan etc.) but as long as soccer is around, no one will comprehensively beat them. Of course, I hope this isn’t the case, but I sadly don’t think the anyone will give them a real scare like a few years ago. USA has learnt from it’s mistakes, they know how to win these tourneys now.

  • http://oytun.co.uk oytun

    The NBA is way different than FIBA basketball…most europeans’ skillsets get negated in the US by the game being about 1vs1 and how athletic you are. FIBA is REAL basketball where teamwork wins games and not individuals. So those 200players better than Carlos Delfino in the NBA are better at NBA basketball, and not real basketball.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    Oytun, strangely mediocre USA players have no problem going to Europe and becoming stars. These are players, like God Shammgod or J.R. Holden, who had clear holes in their games when they finished school and those holes prevented them from succeeding in the NBA. Yet, they go over to Europe and their stars. I find that extremely telling when discussing the talent gap.