The Difference Between Cults and Cliques

There's already a little grumbling about Kidd's inclusion on Team USA, that he'll crowd out what should rightfully be the Chris Paul/Deron Williams show, that there's nothing he can do that those two can't do better, and that we should hurry up and get the torch-passing over with (as if it hasn't been passed already). I completely understand the desire to see Paul and Williams take center stage, but feel compelled to say that Jason Kidd is the absolute perfect fit for this incarnation of Team USA.

This might seem like an unusual stance to take given that I typically am fully in favor of embracing the future and burning the past, and there's no question that Kidd has been fully eclipsed at this point by those two. Paul and Deron don't have any dues left to pay or any lessons to learn by sitting behind Kidd. Similarly, this isn't about Kidd's years of service, the wisdom gained from them, or the locker room hierarchy that will supposedly help him manage the egos. Deference to our elders means little to me and I have no use for symbolic positions meant to honor past glories. Kidd was pretty underwhelming this year both during his disappointing Mavs reunion and certainly while sleepwalking with the Nets. I fully acknowledge that Paul can run circles around him at this point and that Deron actually has a jumpshot. But none of that changes the fact that the U.S.'s demolition of last summer's FIBA Americas Championship was a thrilling display of basketball, largely because of Kidd's role. Carmelo put up the stats, LeBron got the highlights, and Kobe basked in the defensive glory, but it was the aging Kidd who set the tone for the entire run in a way that Paul or Deron couldn't replicate.

As ecstatic as I get over the Paul-to-Chandler oop, it's almost entirely about Chris Paul's wizardry. Kidd's passes, on the other hand, are complete deferrals to the power and majesty of his finishers, which is exactly what this crowd needs. When Paul's at his finest, the players around him almost feel like props that are out there for his pleasure. LeBron James and Dwight Howard are anything but props. With those two, in addition to Kobe and Melo, this year should still be primarily about them and the terror they can inflict. They shouldn't be out there headless though, which makes the deteriorated Kidd the perfect compromise to set them up without taking any of their spotlight; to put the ball in the perfect place every time, while still allowing the finishers to lead.

If you didn't see or don't remember Kidd's FIBA performance, it was absolutely flawless, and something I can't wait to see recreated on an even bigger stage. The statline he ended up with doesn't appear striking (1.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, and 4.6 apg in 15.9 mpg), but his two most important numbers were the just 10 shot attempts and 5 turnovers over the course of the 10 games. That second stat is especially staggering when one thinks back to the ridiculous array of passes he attempted. In particular, two of his botched passes stick out to me more than all of his successes: at one point he attempted a full-court bounce pass that weaved between three defenders, barely beating his streaking target to the spot. Even more impressive was the highlight of the entire tournament: the failed off-balance, off-the-backboard alley oop to LeBron from the 3-point line. Had LeBron connected (and he arguably should have), it would have gone down as the greatest pass I've ever seen.

Despite all the absurd pass attempts, he still ended up with a tournament-leading 9.2 ast/to ratio. That number is off the charts in a regular season, but in an intensified series of All-Star games, it just doesn't seem rational. But when you have LeBron and Dwight on the other end of your lobs and they're actually trying, you can usually get away with things you couldn't imagine anywhere else. Chris and Deron are definitely going to have their share of inspired plays, both by themselves and using their teammates, but with those two their highlights are manifestly of their creation, with their stamp always firmly affixed. In the NBA, this makes their play hugely preferable to Kidd's diminished game. Surrounded by other future HOFers though, I'll take Kidd's seemingly-less-authored genius every time.

At least as important as his awe-inspiring lobs was Kidd's unique approach to moving the ball that summer. He came into the tournament absolutely determined to never dribble the basketball, opting instead for full-court outlet passes after both makes and misses. He may have dribbled the ball 6 or 7 times over the entire week and a half, never holding the ball for more than a second or two. The "hot potato" style completely took over, as though the entire team collectively decided, "fuck dribbling," which translated to incredibly gorgeous basketball. Somehow a team starring Carmelo, Kobe, and LeBron managed to use hardly any isos at all, save for an occasional reassertion of Kobe's alpha status. On a team loaded with scorers, a point guard that needs to dominate the ball has the potential to disrupt the awesome flow that this group established last summer. With Kidd at the reigns, I feel confident we'll be treated once again to the steady stream of flawless touch passes we saw last August.

Chris Paul and Deron Williams are absolute virtuosos on the court. They'll be spectacular both this summer off the bench and as they lead us to the next 3 or 4 gold medals. But for this year, it's still all about Kidd setting the table without ever claiming the foreground. Not as a nostalgic tribute to what's come before, but because his current style is what will make for the most exciting and dominating basketball right now.

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At 6/24/2008 11:11 AM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

I started out totally not with this argument, but by the last paragraph you had me. So, strong rhetorical skills, sir.

There's also the point that, even though a very large percentage of basketball fans (myself included) think J Kidd is a fucking dickhead, what he's done ON the court merits a tribute for services rendered. And that's completely aside from all the excellent reasons mentioned in the post.

At 6/24/2008 11:14 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

That's probably why I was initially eh about it. The weird thing is that, despite my unequivocal hatred of Kidd, if you buy this argument and some sort of style/personality correlation, he ends up scoring decency points against Williams and that showboat Paul.

At 6/24/2008 11:40 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

I'm still sort of eh about Kidd on this team. He's gonna have to be great to justify his presence over another big. Boozer is goinf to have to be huge and likely guard bigger/taller players often. Luckily his floundering in the post will be an afterthought with this high flying attack. CP3 is kinda a midget and could get taken avantage of by bigger international PGs, but will Kidd be abloe to do any better defensively? Ason did do an incredible job last summer though, Had LeBron and Kobe dreaming of playing with him. Nice read, but I'd still swap him for Tyson Chandler on this squad in a secoind.

At 6/24/2008 1:03 PM, Blogger Jason Gill said...

I think the worst pick for the team by far is Boozer, nothing more than a Duke legacy if you ask me. He doesn't have the size, his game was way off this past season, and he mediocre midrange game is swallowed whole by Melo. As far as interior prescence on both sides he doesn't match up to Tyson by any measure. (To say nothing of the value of continued Paul-Chandler chemistry).

At 6/24/2008 1:29 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

Jason Kidd on the court will forever be one of my favorites. I try to pretend (and so does he, give his incredibly boring interviews) that he doesn't exist off the court.

And I agree with the argument, Shoals. Although I think that both Paul and Williams could play the same style of game that Kidd does internationally, I don't think they could do it remotely as successfully. Neither of the young lions has reached that level of improv that Kidd has, where full court alley oops materialize simply because everyone happened to be in the right place at the right time and Kidd realized it, rather than the near-set plays that Paul runs, or Deron's cold precision.

Also, Kidd can't guard small, fast point guards, but how many of those are in the international game? I can think of two or so.

At 6/24/2008 1:49 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

This post almost started out as my hatred for the Boozer pick, but I decided to swing positive instead. But briefly: he doesn't fit at all with the running game or the halfcourt game; doesn't provide the backstop that Tyson would have (which matters cuz Kidd is slow); but most importantly, in my opinion, will be completely useless at using the ridiculous "legal goaltending rule" where the ball's live once it hits the rim. I want a guy (probably ideally Chandler) who's designated to focus solely on put backs and shotblocks/goaltends. Boozer won't take advantage of that hilarious rule once I don't think.

At 6/24/2008 1:52 PM, Blogger blake said...

i'm not equipped to handle what's going on in my head right now. quick, somebody remind me why it's okay to wish jason kidd wasn't on this team...

At 6/24/2008 1:58 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

Honestly, all this post needed was that clip of the failed oop to LeBron.

I think everybody's piling on Boozer unfairly, mostly because this is a guy we grudgingly respect when he's posting 20-10 every night, so the opportunity to call him a piece of garbage can't be missed.

Boozer has an effective mid-range game, an accomplished set of post moves, and he will be playing with his point guard. I'm pretty confident he'll put his sub-par playoff performance behind him and dominate international bigs.

Also, consider the transmogrifying aspect of Team USA. Kobe becomes a padlock, Melo becomes Kobe, LeBron becomes the player we all know he can be... why can't Boozer become Karl Malone? DREAM TEAM BABY.

Though I can't for the life of me figure out why Chandler isn't on the squad. This guy gets zero respect, not from my Bulls and not from Team USA. You know that part in Semi-Pro, where they discover the alley-oop? It's completely unstoppable, nobody's seen anything like it. That's how I feel about Paul->Chandler alley oops.

At 6/24/2008 2:31 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

Pardon me, apparently it's Carter I agree with.

At 6/24/2008 2:32 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

I think this argument can be made in two sentences: Jason Kidd is 44-0 in international play. He deserves to lead the American team.

Good post, Carter. That video was a great touch.

At 6/24/2008 2:35 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Jason Kidd is the only person who could throw that pass and not ruffle any feathers.

At 6/24/2008 2:48 PM, Blogger Adam Abed said...

While I understand the point the author is making here, I still believe that CP3 should be the PG of choice for the Olympic team.

The growth of Paul over the course of the 2008 season has been staggering and the numbers pretty much speak for themselves. The authors main argument is that Paul will dominate the ball and not let other stars shine. My thought on this is...so what? If CP3 can dominate the ball and get kobe and lebron layups all day, this would be much preferable over the crazy (although sometimes successful) passes that kidd makes. I think Paul's showing at the all-star game really put a stamp on how good of a creator he has been this year. With 14 assists and just 2 turnovers, he pretty much kept the West from getting a nasty beatdown.

I am not saying that Kidd should not be on the team...although I question why there is practically no size on this team other than Howard (Bosh and Boozer while big cannot play center and this gives the front-line very little depth). I simply think that CP3 right now is the better player and he has proven (all-star game) that he can create for the best players in the game and still generate offense, which is something kidd really cannot do anymore.

Only time will tell who will end up being better for the team, but I believe the author is at least correct in justifying kidd's presence on the team.

One quick side question...why is KG always MIA for USA Basketball? With such a lack of front-court depth the big men of the US need to step up.

At 6/24/2008 2:56 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Dude, KG hasn't slept for a month and needs to replace the tin foil in his house this summer. Give him some time off.

At 6/24/2008 4:19 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

that clip reminded me of this one. . .


sad part is, neither guy finished. otherwise you're looking at two of the most ridiculous passes ever.

At 6/24/2008 4:34 PM, Blogger Adam Abed said...

KG gets paid 24.75 million to play basketball...forgive me if I have little pity for his lack of sleep during the playoffs, rest up for a few days and man up for your country.

At 6/24/2008 5:01 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Lighten up, it was a joke.

At 6/24/2008 5:29 PM, Blogger Graydon said...

"Jason Kidd is the only person who could throw that pass and not ruffle any feathers."

I completely agree. Kidd is as unbridled and intrepid a passer as they come but for some reason he also has the respect of the "right way" crowd. He throws wild ass passes but they still fall in the purview selfless play, I guess. Weird little niche he's carved for himself. Also the whole "veteran" tag automatically makes any decision he makes seem wise rather than ballsy.

At 6/24/2008 5:39 PM, Blogger Adam Abed said...

Actually the author brought up a good point to me about why certain people like KG are not on the team and why Boozer is. KGs shoe deal is with addidas while boozer's is with nike, and nike sponsors the usa team...maybe this could have something to do with it?

At 6/24/2008 5:40 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

Normally I wouldn't outright discount that, but Garnett actually refused to play. Same with Duncan. I think they were pissed off about how FIBA rules and refs affected the games last time, and decided not to play anymore - I know that's true for Duncan, at least.

At 6/24/2008 5:46 PM, Blogger Graydon said...

Although I think Adam makes a good point: Does anyone on this team not have a deal with Nike? The only major Adidas guy on the team I can think of is Howard. But everybody else is with Nike or the Jordan brand. I think Duncan and KG have other explanations (i.e. they just didn't want to do it), but its certainly an interesting coincidence

At 6/24/2008 5:50 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

I know it was KG who said no (and he'd have plenty of reasons to not be interested anyway: won one already, brutal season, shitty FIBA rules, etc), but I still wonder just how much behind the scenes stuff is happening. Like were Chauncey and Amare's decisions fully their own or was there some coaxing against them pulling an Arenas? Looking at that roster it's hard to imagine that there isn't some degree of shoe politics at work. (Credit to Nate, and I guess Zero, for pointing this out)

At 6/24/2008 5:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Nate Jones, who knows about shit like this, told me last week that Wade was on the team because he's the face of Converse, and Nike wants Converse promoted on the world stage. This was when it seemed like it was Paul or Deron, which made it particularly egregious. But still, I think we can all imagine another—healthy—player being a better choice. Also, there's the question of whether Wade ever had the option of sitting out if invited.

WV: szwaag (Yiddish Captain Marvel drafted by the Wiz)

At 6/24/2008 5:53 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

I should clarify that I know Amare is Nike, but there were some indications that the higher ups weren't happy with his commitment level or someting, so I'm wondering if he was basically told, "bow out for your pride's sake."

At 6/24/2008 5:57 PM, Blogger dickey simpkins said...

As much as I don't want to like Kidd and scream for Paul and Williams to run the show, this post is completely right. Not only is there an established camaraderie between the Kidd and the rest of the team because of their dominating play last summer, this is Kidd's perfect arena, a game where the team has decided "fuck it, let's just go and obliterate these foreigners and establish our own Team USA legacy." Personally, I would rate this team as 3rd behind the 92 and 96 incarnations, but their performance this summer will be far more memorable than the Atlanta games.

At 6/24/2008 6:33 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

After reading all this I think I agree completey that the blunders go in this order fomr most to least egregious.

1. Boozer over Chandler
2. Wade over whoever
3. Kidd

In looking at this wade's spot should DEFINITELY have gone to Bosch or Chandler. That said, the Gold is ours to lose.

At 6/24/2008 7:31 PM, Blogger T. said...

Don't get me wrong, because I love love love Chris Paul. But for some reason, he's just not as effective in FIBA games as he is in the Lig. One more summer of Kidd should do the trick.

As for KG - he's played and won a gold medal (Sydney 2000).

I think the biggest error is not having Chris Kaman in the discussion somewhere. I don't think he's even on the 30 man roster, while such luminaries as JJ Reddick and Adam Morrison are.

At 6/24/2008 7:37 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

I hadn't really thought much about Team USA yet, despite the announcement of the members.

But this got me pondering about a question that came up in the last few weeks ...

This has the potential to be an FD defensive team:


That's a team that could play an absolutely creative and beguiling form of three-quarter or half-court trapping defense that would be a monstrous amalgam of the 90-93 Bulls and the Warriors of the 2007 playoffs.

Of course, neocon Coach K will probably kill that dream, as indicated by the decision to leave off Chandler, who was born to be part of that defense.

At 6/24/2008 7:54 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Great argument- you completely convinced me.

I was hoping they would continue the "token college star" tradition for 12th man and add Beasley (over Boozer or Wade). I think he will absolutely light up the international game, and I fully expect him to be starting on the 2012 team. Oh well.

Speaking of 2012, there is a distinct possibility that almost every one of these players won't be participating- the long-term committment ends after Beijing, and we could enter another period of disdain for playing international ball. If everyone does bail, who is your starting 5 for London?

I'll go with:

And Arenas finally gets his shot at winning something meaningful

At 6/24/2008 8:02 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Upon further review, my choices seem rather mundane. Note that I was seriously considering putting Stephenson or Henry ahead of Durant.

At 6/24/2008 9:40 PM, Blogger Teddy said...

I recognize that "me too" comments aren't all that useful, but because I was on BS a bit during the finals, I wanted to chime in and agree with those who said that this was a great, well-argued post. Huzzah and so forth.

At 6/24/2008 9:50 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Perhaps Boozer was added merely to destroy Yao Ming.

wv: "pneou"= "zaftig" in Mandarin

At 6/24/2008 11:33 PM, Blogger Sons of Big Daddy Drew said...

I'm a bit surprised that the FD crowd would say passes "would be the greatest ever, but the other guy didn't finish." Isn't it Free Darko to put the emphasis on the process, rather than the result? Those passes were great, whether they were assists or not.

That said, Carter's argument for Kidd's inclusion completely convinced me. I was legitimately angry to see him on the team at first, but I have seen the light.

At 6/25/2008 12:25 AM, Blogger Tree Frog said...

It would have been more beautiful if LeBron had laid it in. Like a slightly leveled-up Travis Outlaw in NBA 2K7 move.

Ray Allen is unguardable in that game.

WV: utofj - Udonis turnover. One free jumpshot.

At 6/25/2008 6:38 AM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

This is kind of fantastic. The 13th pick, 33rd pick, 36th pick, and their stable of stashed euros just didn't cut it. They needed the 27th pick too. I know they're probably going to spin those excess second rounders into something, but it still cracks me up especially considering it seems like they've gotten 4-5 players every year thanks to Sarver. Pritchard definitely enjoys the draft more than any other GM.

At 6/25/2008 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ T.: Chris Kaman is actually listed as a member of the current German national squad:


but nothing in his background suggests a connection. anyone up on this?

At 6/25/2008 10:38 AM, Blogger Shiv said...


There was an article on it somewhere in cyberspace a while back. I can't remember the exact details, but I believe that one of his parents or grandparents were born in Germany which led the German Olympic committee to offer him German citizenship and the opportunity to play in the Olympics. Since he isn't even a blip on Team USA's radar he accepted.

Atleast...that's what I think I read.

At 6/25/2008 11:07 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I thought it had something to do with a military base.

New Sporting News column, that borders on sexism but I still believe. Expect a draft-related post here after I make a run to the airport.

At 6/25/2008 12:08 PM, Blogger Joshua R said...

"This is kind of fantastic. The 13th pick, 33rd pick, 36th pick, and their stable of stashed euros just didn't cut it. They needed the 27th pick too. I know they're probably going to spin those excess second rounders into something, but it still cracks me up especially considering it seems like they've gotten 4-5 players every year thanks to Sarver. Pritchard definitely enjoys the draft more than any other GM."

Oh yeah he does. And it makes it more fun for us, no? I mean: Portland has 13 players coming back, with Rudy Fernandez making 14. He has five draft picks. And one roster spot. So something is likely to happen (or he could stand pat and just pick another furriner at 27, but whatever). Who does he go after? Mike Conley? Does he move up to get a SF or PG? Sadly, it doesn't seem like he has enough to entice Miami (Oden, Aldridge, Beasley, Roy...just pencil them in for five championships now). Them, the Suns, and Miami are gonna up turn all of those mock drafts we've been seeing.

At 6/25/2008 12:11 PM, Blogger dunces said...

I wonder if the shoe conspiracy isn't a two-way street; while Nike might be trying to keep Adidas guys off the team, they're probably also doling out large incentives to their pitchmen to be on the international stage, mitigating some of the extra stress that international play produces.

At 6/25/2008 12:37 PM, Blogger Walter said...

cp3 dominates the ball w/ nola cause he has to. who else is getting their own shot on that team besides west? look at him on these types of teams: all-star game, rookie challenge (06?), even 06 worlds. he knows how to get the ball to guys who can finish.

kidd is still an outstanding table setter, but cp isn't as far behind as you seem to think- the spin pass to himself in the all-star game was blink and you'll miss it moment of ecstasy.

At 6/25/2008 1:16 PM, Blogger ItTakesAThiefToCatchAThief said...

I'm a'flip-flop. Hated seeing Kidd on the team, thought we needed more size, Boozer's 6'7''....but this post has also convinced me that Kidd will be fine.

Still need more size though.

How is Tyson not on this team?

At 6/25/2008 4:50 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

@Walter: I wasn't trying to say Chris won't do a outstanding job setting people up, just that there's a slight stylistic difference between how he does it and how Kidd will.

Also, apropos to nothing and everything:
"Evan (Indy): What team were you a fan of growing up?

Eric Gordon: None really. I just liked watching my favorite players, like Michael Jordan, Penny Hardaway, and Tim Hardaway."

At 6/25/2008 5:38 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

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