Posts Tagged ‘mike miller

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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13
Jul
07

Some of last year’s doormats much improved for ’07-08

The offseason is a time for limitless optimism when looking at your favorite team, or any team for that matter. For most teams the 2007-2008 season won’t go as well as they’re picturing now. For a few teams it will go even better than they’re imagining. We can’t say for certain what will happen but here are 4 teams we expect to improve significantly compared to last season.

Should be better in ’07-’08:

Charlotte Bobcats



The Cats should be much better this season, but it probably won’t be due to
Morrison’s play. He’s likely to see more time on the bench this season.


When the Cats selected Bandan Wright it immediately looked like Michael Jordan placed his UNC affinity above the good of his team. However, a short time later when news came out that Wright was being traded for Jason Richardson things started to look better. Richardson does come with some question marks. Will Richardson get hurt again? Will he play the way he’s played for most of his career and like he did at the end of last year? Or, will we see the same underwhelming player the Warriors saw for the first 3/4 of last season? Sure, it was a risky trade but it’s a risk Charlotte needed to make.

They’ve amassed some exciting young talent in Okafor, Felton and Wallace who has turned out to be an amazing pickup from their expansion draft. Sean May is still a question mark due to his frequent injuries but he could turn out to be very good as well. The problem facing the cats going into this draft is that all of their core players were 25 and under. They needed a veteran to stabilize the team and step up in crunch time. They found one in Richardson. The result looks to be a very well-balanced team. They have a great true point guard in Ray Felton, a Michael Jordanesque player in Richardson (don’t get pissed off, all we’re saying is their STYLES of play are similar), an incredibly athletic slasher in Wallace and a dominant defensive player and post presence in Okafor. If May can stay healthy and add some low post scoring this could be a very, very good team in a year or two.

Portland Trail Blazers


Brandon Roy should have a much easier time
this season with more help around him.

A lot still has to shake out before we know what the ’07-’08 Blazers team will look like. They currently have about 20 players on their roster and a ton of untested rookies whose performance will be hard to project. However, they do have a few core players who will give them a similarly balanced attack to the Bobcats.

Greg Oden had some trouble in summer league but everyone seems to agree that he will still be a great, great player in the NBA. His limited offensive game as of now shouldn’t hurt the team much because fellow post player LaMarcus Aldridge has shown some great offensive talent in summer league to complement his strong rookie season. Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy is a solid all-around player and traditional two guard. All this team needs to become a perennial powerhouse in the next couple of years is a very solid point guard. Many rumors circulated just prior to the draft that the Blazers were shopping Jarrett Jack hard, which raises questions about the guard that add to his so far inconsistent play. However, Oden, Aldridge and Roy combined with the wealth of young talent on the Portland roster should be enough for them to compete right away while looking for an improvement at the point.

Memphis Grizzlies



Rudy Gay will be one piece in a well-balanced attack for Memphis this season.

There’s a lot to be excited about if you’re a Grizz fan, especially compare to what you had to be excited about 3 months ago after you didn’t win Oden or Durant.

It looks like Memphis isn’t letting Pau Gasol go anywhere. They picked up Milicic who as we all know still has a lot to prove. However, Darko only just turned 22. New Memphis coach Mark Iavaroni is looking to run an up-tempo offense that should cater to Darko’s skills. He’ll work the high post while Gasol works the low post. They should form an intimidating big man combo and be hard for smaller teams in the league to stop.

Memphis also has sweet shooting 2 guard Mike Miller in the fold, plus #4 overall pick Mike Conley. Conley is looking strong in summer league and likely will get the starting job as a rookie. Finally, add SF Rudy Gay to the mix, coming off a solid if unspectacular rookie season, and the Grizzlies have a very solid starting lineup. The odd man out would seem to be Kyle Lowry, who is also doing very well in summer league. However, the Grizzlies can dangle Lowry as trade bait in order to pick up a scoring spark off the bench from a team that needs a young point guard (Portland?). The bottom line is Memphis should be better right away and have a lot to look forward to years down the line.

Chicago Bulls – You had to know this was coming


Viktor should see more playing time this season and
the Bulls will be better. We’ll see if Khryapa gets credit
for the improvement or if it happens in spit of him.

While the Bulls were anything but a doormat last season, they look like they’ll be significantly better this year. We’re projecting 55+ wins for Chicago in ’07-’08.

The biggest difference this coming year should be the continued development of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas. Both Deng and Gordon showed significant progress to their games last season. Both are still very young, especially Deng. Look for Gordon to again average in the 20’s with Deng reaching that level as well. Hinrinch will continue his stellar point guard play and should put up similar numbers to his last two seasons.

Tyrus Thomas has been tearing up the Orlando summer league. He’s shown a hugely improved mid-range jumper he developed in the offseason (see below post for details on Tyrus offseason development). Pair his new found shooting ability with his incredible athleticism and he should be in intimidating offensive and defensive force in the league this year.

The Bulls also should have possibly the best bench in the NBA this year. They’ll feature either Andres Nocioni or Tyrus Thomas depending who starts at the 4. Either one should be a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Thabo Sefolosha should build on his very solid rookie season while seeing more minutes this year. Joakim Noah is a perfect bench player at this point in his career. While he won’t bring much scoring he will bring a ton of energy and great defense. Chris Duhon, if he’s still on the team the start of the season, is an incredible point guard for a backup. Viktor Khryapa should see more minutes this year with the departure of several former Bulls power forwards and should display the form that made him a starter a couple of years ago in Portland. Seriously, what other team will feature a bench with 5 players who would be a starter on at least one team in the NBA?

Chicago is still lacking that dominant low post scorer that so many teams covet. However, in addition to their deep bench they will also feature one of the league’s premiere defenses. This D, which will be particularly strong in the key – should make up for their relative lack of consistent low post scoring. Ben Wallace, super-blocker Tyrus Thomas, Jaokim Noah and Andres Nocioni will be one of the better defensive rotations at the 4 & 5 positions in recent memory. Last season Luol Deng took one of his weaknesses, his defense, and made it one of his strengths. His long arms and increased defensive awareness have made his a similar defender to Tayshaun Prince. Hinrich was all-defensive second team and will be that or first team this year. Thabo Sefolosh quickly earned a reputation as a “stopper” for subduing Kobe in the regular season and Dwayne Wade in the playoffs. Finally, Duhon is also a superb defender on smaller guards. The Bulls scoring may be inconsistent at times, but their defense, effort and energy never is.

Barring any unforeseen major changes the Bulls will be one of the top 5 teams in the league this year.




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