14
Aug
07

Losing faith in Team USA

Team USA made some surprising announcements yesterday.  They stated that Kirk Hinrich, Shane Battier and Greg Oden are withdrawing from this summer’s team.  Also, they told us that Nick Collison would be added to the senior team’s roster.

I’m pretty sure that Oden already announced his withdrawal a few weeks ago, so I’m not sure why Team USA would announce it now. 

Hinrich and Battier started games last summer in the World Championship tournament.  They were also considered the two best defenders on last year’s team.  It seems strange they would pull out now and their withdrawal brings up some interesting questions about the current philosophy of Team USA.

Nick Collison was added to the team???  Was this a last second attempt to by Team USA to try and keep Collison’s college roommate happy?  No, but that’s about the only way I can make sense of the addition.  I’m all about mixing role players with stars on the Olympic team, but Collison?  He very well might not even start in Seattle (or OKC or wherever) this season. 

Sam Smith quotes Jerry Colangelo in his article today:

"We are adding another 'big' in Nick Collison, and he'll
participate in the August training," Colangelo said.
"We're excited about his addition. He has had a lot of
USA Basketball experience. He's physical, and he handles
the pick-and-roll as well as anyone. He's been added to
the senior national team for a reason."

In this quotation Colangelo makes a few things clear.  Collison is definitely being added to the senior team, so we shouldn’t be thinking he’s another practice squad (junior team) member for the superstars to beat up on.  Also, Collison is being added for his size, pick-and-roll abilities (or possibly abilities defending the p-a-r?), and his Team USA experience.

Maybe the Team USA experience (played on the ’03 Tournament of the Americas championship team with Jason Kidd) will help him, a bit.  Beyond that experience his participation doesn’t make sense.  There are lots of big guys out there.  He can handle the pick-and-roll?  Honestly, I think they threw him in because he’s white.  This team represents the country and if you look at every Team USA since the original dream team you’ll find a couple of white guys that make you wonder if there weren’t other players who could help the team more.  I think that being white helped Hinrich make the team last year and Mike Miller make it this year.  The strange thing about Collison is that he doesn’t bring one strong skill that he can use to fill a role, thus becoming a role player.  Hinrich is a premier defender.  Miller is one of the best three-point shooters in the league.  Collison is a solid all-around big man coming off the bench on a good team. 

It just seems like there had to be better players out there who brought well-rounded games and still had a specialty.  I think Tyson Chandler is a great fit for this team because he can do a little bit of everything but is an outstanding rebounder and good defender.  Collison can do a little bit of everything but is . . . 

On to the pride of Iowa.  Hinrich hasn’t commented yet on why he withdrew from Team USA.  Since he played last year he’ll still be allowed to participate in next year’s Olympics because he played one of the two seasons leading up to the games.  It works the same for Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant who didn’t play last summer. 

The rumor is that Hinrich saw a tough fight ahead with Deron Williams just in order to make the team and then a lot of time on the bench behind Kidd and Chauncey Billups.  Hinrich got married this summer and also may want to spend his time with wifey before the long NBA season ahead.  He may have just been offended.  After coming out, working hard last summer and starting three games in the tournament, he played the second fewest minutes in the organized team scrimmage a few weeks ago.  Only JJ Redick, who should have no chance of making this team, played less than Hinrich. 

The other factor that may have been crucial to Kirk’s decision is the wear and tear that year-round competitive basketball supposedly puts on a player.  I’m neither an NBA player nor a professional athlete of any kind, so I really can’t comment from experience.  However, I have read many times that the grind of the NBA season can wear on players as they get old.  Hinrich is by no means old, but he’s not a rookie or young player either.  The NBA season is also supposed to be harder than other professional sports mostly because of the traveling.  While an NBA player has more off days than and MLB player, the NBA player often has to visit four different cities in one week.  The MLB player stays in each city he goes to for at least three days.  Also, in basketball you’re running constantly.  In baseball you don’t have the same kind of physical fatigue.  In football and soccer you do, but you don’t play as frequently. 

Hinrich shot only 37.6% in the playoffs and many have attributed that low number to being worn down from nonstop play over the year.  At 26 and guiding a Bulls team on the brink of breaking through to the elite level perhaps Hinrich views this as a time to focus on the being prepared for the season.  His absence will make me somewhat less interested in Team USA, but all the more excited for the Bulls season. 

The larger issue that Team USA’s announcements bring up is that of the composition of the team.  Last year Colangelo and Coach K harped on having a well-rounded team that played defense in addition to offense.  Not a team of only all-stars, but a team with stars and role players, scorers and defenders, rebounders and hustle guys.  However, two of the best defenders left the team possibly as a result of being neglected.  They’re being replaced by offensive-minded all-stars like Michael Redd and Kobe Bryant.  Nobody’s saying Kobe shouldn’t be on this team, just that if you put it together in the image of 2002 and 2004 you’re likely to get the same results.  Adding Nick Collison to the roster isn’t fooling anybody either.  He won’t play while Amare and Dwight Howard will.  Hopefully we’ll get a different result than in years past despite the fielding the same type of team. 

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