Some measly hours from now, Kevin Durant and other free agents in the world’s best basketball league can be officially courted by any interested team willing to foot a massive bill. In the field is an interesting mix of guys looking for their first big payday- quick roll call, DeMar DeRozan, Nicholas Batum- and those like Dwight Howard, who are seeking a final gargantuan cheque. However, days prior to the most coveted period of the offseason aside the Draft, 12 names were pinned down as US basketball representatives to Rio de Janeiro come August with surprising revelations.
Now, as Carmelo Anthony is set to make history by being the first guy to play in four Olympics, Team USA’s 2016 Olympic adventure has been anything but captivating. Whilst players scrapped, scrambled and did everything to impress national team officials for selection into the team not too long ago, players have consistently turned down invitations from selectors like pitch volume on stereos. Newly minted three time NBA Champion LeBron James was the last notable figure to choose home over heading South to Rio. Olympic Gold medalists Chris Paul, Kevin Love, James Harden and Russell Westbrook had opted for that way earlier than James did partly due to the uncertainties of Cleveland Cavaliers roller coaster ride to a first ever NBA title.
Former Kentucky University standouts John Wall and Anthony Davis joined LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley and Blake Griffin in convalescence as they nurse varied injuries picked up along the way in a lengthy NBA season. Upstarts Kawhi Leonard and Gordon Hayward also pulled out of the Rio race before the final list was finalized. But has Olympic Gold become unattractive with less prestige to the extent the game’s first ever unanimously selected Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, who has no Olympic experience unlike his illustrious peers, shun the multi colored ring event?
All indicators point to that fact but the national team’s gaping holes have been clogged by neophytes starting with Golden State Warriors trio Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and to some degree Klay Thompson who won gold in 2014 at the World Cup. Warriors magnificent season failed to produce a title thanks in part to Kyrie Irving who has shone brightly in international competitions and has the best player award in a World Cup to show for it. Kyle Lowry, DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan and Paul George bring on board productive seasons from their clubs to the team. Durant and Anthony-holdovers from the London Olympic gold winning team-round up the team.
An Irving –Thompson backcourt tandem is talented enough to win the ultimate but does not necessarily scream utter worldliness like 2012’s Chris Paul-Kobe Bryant mashup. Backup Guard Lowry is not injury free Deron Williams neither are Draymond Green and George better Forwards than James and Durant. And as the bench can’t be realistically compared to an Andre Iguodala, Westbrook, Harden combination, the Center position offers the best resolve of this make up team. In 2012, Tyson Chandler anchored the middle for Team USA with a pinch of small ball centers in Kevin Love, LeBron and Anthony Davis spending some time under the rim.
Compared to 2012, Cousins and Jordan offer good rim protection-not great as Chandler’s- and in Cousins case, more offense due to his ability to score in varied ways which ranges within the painted area and behind the three point arc. However, both players are far more prone to fouls than Chandler who aces fundamental tests on timing and defending opponents. Cousins, for starters is a loose cannon who can wreck a good win on his own. Call him basketball’s version of Mario Ballotelli; talented but enigmatically flawed to live up to their lofty mercurial talent.
His Sacramento Kings side has been bedeviled with management and ownership issues for some time but his inability to act as the franchise player is a big reason for the franchise’s stalled development failing to make the playoffs since 2006. Count the number of dismissed coaches who have suffered migraine headaches after Cousins was drafted in 2010 (five), and you definitely get the picture.
The torch to represent at the Olympics has been passed from coast to coast until now and the recipients must carry on the bright flame of USA Basketball in the world greatest show piece.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah