The things behind John Hollinger
Really I have no business writing this, since this season's first Wire just showed up on On Demand. But while waiting for my better half to help me go to the grocery store, I stumbled upon this absolute gem of a Hollinger piece. I'm guessing a lot of you probably have Insider, and I'm not going to repost the whole thing for those who don't; the gist of it is that foreign-born NBA players hardly shredded raw timber at the Worlds. Some appears to have been due to fatigue (for some reason not an option for the USA), but by and large it raises some rather propulsive questions about this whole international/NBA divide.
For one, I find more than a little puzzling that competent NBA players with a FIBA background would play worse in this Worlds than in the League of Might. If anyone would seem to be the test case for (insert your pet theory on the relationship here), it would be those individuals who excel in both settings. Nowitzki, Gasol, Manu, Diaw. . . their backs are the petri dishes upon which proof shall fester. One would assume that they bring an international sensibility to the NBA game, and thus would be equally at home in both settings. Conversely, they are used to dealing with the athletic facility that distinguishes America's Version, meaning that they can bring all the tools and strategies gleaned from that experience. If anything, you'd think that they would be more perfect in their native context, building on what made them special by incorporating the U.S. slang. Maybe these are diametrically opposed worlds, in which future Hall of Famers flounder and NBA bench players soar, but surely these figures provide the slimy, compelling Rosetta Stone this argument so sorely needs.
In the interest of brevity and goodwill, here's a crude rundown of Hollinger's assessment. I've excluded the marginal names unless they were especially notable.
Jose Calderon: efficient
Delfino: not bad
Diaw: a wreck
Manu: tired, flat, no respect
Darko: absolutely spectacular inside. also prompted JH to write "the dude needs to get to the line."
Yao: "best player in the tournament"
Nocioni: the usual
Dirk: "weary," horrible percentages
Varejao: meaningless but broke a face
. . .and not surprisingly, the overall verdict was "mixed reviews."
I am assuming that "mixed reviews" refers to them as a category, not meaning that there was a huge disagreement over certain players worth. That said, though, this does obliterate most of the notion that the two strains of basketball are related or even comparable. Remember, a lot of these guys are, in the NBA, models of ethical basketball; here, though, they fall to hell's cauldrons. I suppose one could propose that "success" be measured differently in international competition, which wouldn't make much sense to me, or that individual performance can often be tied mightily to the team around him. But really, Diaw, turnover machine? Dirk, frigid husk? Bogut, irresponsible?
There's only one explanation for this: you can't go home again if reared upon the rock of FIBA. The NBA ruins players, making them unable to correctly practice the sport as they once learned; they bring something to the league and it promptly defiles them. They are men without a home, internationals in the Association and turncoats in the Worlds. Fine, Darko's dominance and Rasho's solidity are a testament to the non-existent European low post. But when you have stars leaving us dizzy with underwhelmment. . . clearly something has gone horribly wrong.