Ugh. (And not just the Lakers)

Kurt —  March 2, 2006

I’m not going to talk about it, no need to rehash the ugliness. The late runs should never have had to happen, and they spent so much energy fighting back they couldn’t get over the hump. (By the way, look at the game flow and see that the Lakers fourth-quarter run ends when Kwame gets inserted for 16 seconds.) That game makes us 1-2 this season against the worst team in the league (by my rankings) but they’ve actually split two games against Dallas. Of course, they’re motivated to play Dallas.

The “easy” 10 games where I said the Lakers needed to go 7-3, they are 4-5.


Instead of the ugliness, I want to talk about a sentiment I heard and read a couple places yesterday, but I’ll use Bill “Sports Guy” Simmons as the example, specifically his piece about the upcoming World Championship and Olympic basketball teams. I think he mostly hits the problems and solutions on the head, but adds an easy but costly mistake.

No, this isn’t about him leaving Kobe off of his final 12. Although I will say this as a regular reader and fan of his: It’s clear he just doesn’t like Kobe. That’s fine. But just come out and say that’s why you’re leaving him off the Olympic team, rather than coming up with a convoluted reason that doesn’t really hold water. Kobe’s rusty at playing “real team” basketball, and you base this on what happens at an All-Star game? Just own up to your biases.

My bigger issue was his and others suggestion of having Shaq on the team. If this were the pre-2000 Shaq I’d be all for it — that was an athletic big man who could run the floor and dominate inside. The current version of Shaq is exactly the kind of player we keep sending to the Olympics that is poorly suited to the international game. International ball, with its trapezoid key, is a poor fit for classic low-post players. Look at Ben Wallace.

One of the big problems with the last Olympic squad was Larry Brown’s insistence at running the offense through Tim Duncan in the post. Great idea in the NBA, but with the shorter three-point shot and the wider lane the international game is better suited to motion-style, flash-in-the-lane offenses. Shaq can’t shoot from the outside and is not going to deal well in a motion offense. I’d say defensively he could be an intimidator inside, but what happens when his man starts going out and dropping threes? International centers do that all the time (they’re poor man’s Nowitzki’s).

Plus, look at Shaq’s conditioning and health now. How is he going to be in two years? Amare, even Brad Miller (with a good outside shot) are better fits inside for Beijing than Shaq right now. Shaq is still a great player, but he should not be on the Olympics squad.