Ready for Asia

by July 28, 2008

By Michael Tillery

The USA Senior National Men’s team destroyed a depleted Canada team 120-65, Friday night. Playing without LeBron James, who was a cautionary scratch due to a slight ankle injury, the squad was led by Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Michael Redd who all put up 20—shooting a combined 20-30 from the field.

Just so you all know….Flash is back. He had a sick windmill dunk—with Marquette hops.

Save for two free throws, Michael Redd’s points came from beyond the arc. I’m actually surprised he missed any for every stroke was locked fluid and shot as if he was standing alone.

Melo and Flash give this team a sick combination of 4 killers and by design they will play the back seat to Kobe and Lebon’s shotgun. This group is unstoppable no matter who is on the floor for the talent comes in ridiculous waves of this is our time to go down in history desire, you can’t stop me no matter what confidence and I ain’t goin’ out like 2004 commitment.

It’s almost as if you forget Kobe is on this squad. He’s so talented and professional but give him the rock and he will break your momma’s window just as your daddy seems to pass inside sans glass.

Seeing this team up close and not on paper is almost intimidating. Even though Canada was at a loss before they stepped on the court, our team is frightening.

Unless something crazy happens, they will smash the field and claim gold with relative ease.

You will hear no one speak about outside shooting with Redd cockin’ the howitzer light footed around the wing with his semi-automatic left hand. They have Jack the Ripper, King Hercules slashers times 4, they have muscle from the planet Kryton, they have the offspring of Jason Kidd’s cataclysmic leadership dream running the show, a monsterous power forward in two guard’s don’t let me get back in the Finals again clothing and of course the mirrored Mike knighted grandson of the ABA Doctored takeover.

That’s not mentioning a Utah workmanlike vocal reticence…just like his coach Boozer, a Motown by any means necessary ‘Sheed galvanized Prince and a nod ya head because I’m gonna boof on you with a smile Toronto Bosh comedian—but not.

I asked the team straight up if there was a perceived pressure to win for America and also if because of past and very publicized recent Olympic failures (not the cynical or unnecessarily political, just being real for you) this team understands what’s at stake.

If this team doesn’t win the gold the NBA is in serious trouble and I’m not referring to young boys and vets checkin’ in overseas trouble either because it will be decidedly worse.

I honestly wanted to say put up or shut up, is this team gonna be wearing gold or not, but I didn’t think that was apropos in this forum. I talk to these cats just like I would on the street. Sometimes they appreciate it, sometimes they don’t but deal with it the rest of you must because I lust for the fan’s answers just

Chris Paul and Deron Williams answered very diplomatically:

Deron Williams: I wouldn’t say pressure. We have high expectations of ourselves. A lot of that has to do with 2004 Olympics. It’s hard not to think of those Olympics—how they ended. That went into the thought process of putting this team together.

As far as when we step on the court every night, we know we have a lot to prove…for us…our fans…as well as our country. That’s what we are looking to do when we step out there on the court.

CP3: Just like DWill said, I think the thing that’s special about this team is that it’s been a 3 yr. commitment. We feel like we have a lot invested in this. It’s not just about this year. It’s about all the things we’ve done in the past to get to this point. We’re hungry. I think we have a team of guys that are hungry and never satisfied.

Coach K told us the first day we met this year that it’s not about the expectations, it’s about the anticipation. I think everybody right now is anxious to get on the plane, get over and get over there to China.

We are ready to go.

Coach K chimed in, but I also asked him about Jason Kidd’s role on the team It’s time to give Jason his propers and openly state that he’s one of the best point guards ever. How many other vets of old would be in Jason’s position?

I thought that was a great point and you don’t really hear coaches speak like they visualize their goals like players do.

“Jason’s main role is to be our leader on and off the court. He has a maturity level that is the highest on the team and probably the league. He’s great about sharing his knowledge and giving instruction. He really tries to help Chris Paul and Deron.”

“If he sees something from one of the players…he’s like a little bit of a member of the coaching staff. If he sees something and he feels something, he’ll say maybe we need to try that.”

“We’ll look at it and many times we’ll do it. He has a great understanding of the game.”

“We want to do this for our country, but we also want to do it for us.”

Obviously this was just an exhibition. I couldn’t understand why Leo Rautins was playing his son heavy minutes even though he’s just coming off a torn ACL. He’s not as talented most high school freshmen these days. I got Sammy Dalembert’s words, now it was time to get the other side.

I wanted to ask Leo in the middle of the press conference what happened, but thought better of it considering his team was just blown out by Mike’s double nickel.

Never kick a man when he’s down—well at least in a press conference.

I caught up with Leo as he was boarding the bus to see if I could get something. I prefaced with me interviewing Sammy with Dalembert saying there wasn’t much communication from player to staff:

Leo Rautins: “We just decided to go in another direction. It was a unified decision—the whole team. At that time, it was a move made in the best interest of the team.”


Jermaine Anderson, who scored 18 points in the loss, was more willing to give an answer:

“Honestly, I don’t know the specifics. From what I heard, he disrespected a member of the coaching staff. If that’s true, we can’t have that–especially playing against the international teams who are so together. I think he had a different agenda you know?”

“Sam’s a great guy, a good dude, but some things happened that are inexcusable.”

MT: That being said, was Sammy a good teammate?

JA:” Man, he was a great, great dude, but he just had some off court distractions. He brought some things to Greece that he shouldn’t have brought.

There’s always three sides to one story.

There were also many celebrities in the house (hey it’s Vegas baby). Warren Buffett and Bill Gates…who between them hypothetically could finance the 4 billion dollar city center that’s currently being erected…Ludacris and Jaime Foxx…Luda told me to look out for his new project on September 21st entitled Theater of the Mind, and also wanted me to let the SLAM audience know that Kobe, LeBron, Wade and Paul are definitely his favorites on the squad.

That was cool and everything, but my personal highlight was looking over and seeing an entire section roped off for just NBA legends. Everybody from Chuck Daly to Spencer Haywood.
The press was located in the 111 level of the Thomas and Mack Arena but I had to do what I do and speak to two cats in particular who have helped to shape my NBA mind.

‘Nique went first…

“I think they have a group of guys together that are going into this to win the gold and the gold only. They are more focused and they have a lot to prove. They want to show the world that we have the greatest basketball talent available.

“Nique can you compare the athleticism of legends like yourself and Doc with the athletes of today?

Dominique Wilkins: “Basketball is the same today as it has always been. Of course you are going to have different styles of play, but just looking on the court I see a different focus among at least these players out on the floor. They have turned their game up a notch.”

The Glide was next…

MT: Clyde when I spoke with Kobe at another event, he was asked if this team could compete with the Dream Team and Kobe shook his head before the question was asked.

Clyde Drexler: This is the best team since that team and also the ’96 team. We had more size and also athleticism…remember we had Magic running the show at 6’9” and Michael, Barkley, Malone and myself—to name a few. Let’s just watch this team before we label them the next anything.

Clyde definitely has a point there. I, for one, saw something in the player’s eyes before , during and after the game signifying a thirst for the kill brought on through an undeniable will.

They will not go out like chumps.

America you tore down the 2004 team when they lost, make sure you give this team their proper respect when gold medals are being placed around their accomplished necks—just where they rightfully should be.