Olympics 2008, NBA style
The next men’s Olympic basketball team has become an extreme obsession with me in the past few weeks, ever since the announcement of the committee that will oversee the player selection. According to ESPN.com, the 2008 men’s Olympic team will be chosen by a group of former players and coaches, all of which are either Hall of Famers or will be within the next five years.
The committee? Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Dean Smith, Bob Knight, John Thompson, Chuck Daly, Larry Brown, Jerry West, and a handful of NBA team presidents and general managers.
Phoenix Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo is managing director for the team. The same GM who put together a Suns team that was a pure delight to watch during every game they played this year.
Listen – this is the best thing that’s happened to men’s Olympic basketball since the original Dream Team. I’ll admit, though, I’m a little wary of what they can do. Even if they choose the best players, what’s the guarantee that they’ll get those players to commit to being part of an Olympic team for all of their summer – the plan is for them to practice together, play together, to have an Olympic only coach. To be like the international teams.
It will be hard to get that team together.
Of course, I’ve already put one together for them. This is based on today’s players… this may or may not be even possible in three years, in 2008.
In the front court, I’m putting Ben Wallace and Brad Miller at center. In the international game, you don’t need to worry too much about an inside presence; it’s a drive, kick, and shoot type of system. Ben Wallace is a defensive master, so if anyone gets inside, they’re going to get stopped. Miller is the same way, and has always been one of the most underrated players in the league. Shaq is too old, and not willing to make the sacrifice, I think, so he’s not included. You could also make an argument for Emeka Okafor, and he may very well make the 2008 team if he improves over the next two years.
Helping Wallace out in the starting lineup is Tim Duncan, the perennial “most fundamental” player and a star who is willing to make the sacrifice to play internationally. He’s been in three world tournaments already, so he’s going to be a very knowledgeable leader on the court. Amare Stoudemire can take Shaq’s place as “big dominant American;” he’ll be simply unguardable except by other big men like Yao Ming or Dirk Nowitzki. Shawn Marion makes it for his intensity and ability to play both small forward and power forward. He’s great defensively, and he’s able to both drive and pull up a jump shot.
Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal would make the team in a heartbeat if they were willing to play. It’s been shown, however, that both of them are not incredibly excited about having to work all summer, so I left them off for this reason.
My starting swingman would be either Marion or LeBron James, who is amazing to watch and can play the point if need be. He can drive and he can shoot, so he’s well suited for international play. We’d have seen a lot more of him last Olympics if Larry Brown wouldn’t have been coaching, so there will be a lot of anticipation as to how he plays, much like there was a lot of theorizing on how Michael Jordan would do against the international teams in 1992 – would he simply be Jordan, or would he explode and become something even greater.
I’d want to put Rasheed Wallace on the team too, but I don’t like him, so I’m picking his teammate Rip Hamilton, the new Reggie Miller, because I do like him. He’ll drive any opposing guard crazy running off of picks and hitting the mid range jumper.
At shooting guard, it’s going to be all shooters. One of the biggest complaints about the 2004 Olympic team is that they had too many of the same type of player – too many drive and flip players as opposed to the rest of the world’s dead-eye sharp shooters. Bring in either Ray Allen or Michael Redd, and Joe Johnson. All three are consistently deadly three point shooters, and Joe Johnson will not object to coming off the bench behind either Ray or Redd, whichever is healthy and willing – I’ll just say Redd for the sake of choosing someone who hasn’t been on the team yet. There will be a little bit of harmony, as both could potentially score 20 a game in the international system.
I’d love to throw Gilbert Arenas on the team too, but there’s not enough room. The big stars, like Kobe and McGrady, can stay at home and learn to play as a team.
My point guards were difficult to pick because my favorite point guards are all claimed by their country – France has Tony Parker, Canada has Steve Nash. I took the easy route, instead, and picked Allen Iverson, who really impressed me both this last year and at the 2004 Olympics, and Dwayne Wade, who can be the slash and drive player for the team.
I need one more.
“The Mayor” led the league in three point percentage this year, and he’s the best possible 12th man you could find for a team like this. You need an all long shooting team on the floor? Hoiberg’s going to give you the energy, run the floor, and launch up threes all night because no one will think to guard him. If you’ve got Michael Redd, Allen Iverson, LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire on the floor, would you bother with Hoiberg at all? He’s the ultimate bench player, and he’s the perfect player to fill that last spot.
You can’t tell me that if we brought that team to face the world we wouldn’t win.