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DTL
04-29-2002, 01:19 AM
Just have to post this, if only for the last sentence of this Q&A with Wolff, a veteran sports writer. link (http://www.nba.com/chat_and_mailboxes/wolff_020424.html)

Big Game, Small World: An International Mailbag

Alexander Wolff has covered basketball for Sports Illustrated for nearly 20 years and is the author of Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure, a book about the globalization of the game. Periodically over the next few months, he'll answer your questions not only about how international players are influencing the NBA, but also how basketball itself is evolving around the world.

Q: I see the Shanghai Sharks have just given Yao Ming the green light to go to the NBA. What's in it for Chinese basketball?

Alexander Wolff: Lots. First of all, where Wang Zhi Zhi played for the August 1st Rockets -- the Army team -- and couldn't do anything unless a board of generals gave the OK, Yao answers only to his club team and the influential mayor of Shanghai. Shanghai styles itself as China's most mercantile and international-minded city, and the city fathers see Yao as a walking, talking ad for his booming hometown. Of course, the hope is that whichever NBA club drafts Yao will give back to Chinese basketball, hosting the Sharks for a stateside training camp and paying an exhibition visit to Shanghai.

Read more about basketball in China (http://www.biggamesmallworld.com/seventeen.html)

Q: When will the rest of the world catch up with the American game?

AW: It's already happened. In Sydney, when that three-pointer by Lithuania's Sarunas Jasikevicius rimmed out against the U.S., the international basketball community pulled right alongside. Just look at the thinking of NBA general managers: They're drafting guys from overseas whose entire experience with the game has been non-American. Pau Gasol improved on his Euroleague numbers as an NBA rookie. Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic became NBA All-Stars without having any affiliation with a U.S. high school or college. In Indy this summer, at the Worlds, at least 16 NBA players will suit up for teams other than the U.S.

Q: But Americans still have more flair and feel for the game, don't they?

AW: Not necessarily. It's true that, for the longest time, most foreign players in the league were big men, beginning with the pioneering Georgi Glouchkov of Bulgaria, who played for the Phoenix Suns years ago. But the days are gone when the most influential non-American players are plucked out of the mouths of soccer goals in Africa as teenagers and taught the rudiments of the drop step by some Peace Corps volunteer. Satellite TV with images of NBA games can now be seen in every Third World capital.

In last June's NBA Draft, two European point guards were chosen in the first round. When I was in Angola, at the 1999 African Championships, I asked the best point guard in the tournament, Mike Lasme of the Ivory Coast, who he modeled his game after.

"Iverson," he said.

"Anyone else?" I asked.

"Iverson," he replied again. "C'est tout."

Of course, Lasme had grown up in Abdijan, the capital of his country, watching satellite TV.

Read more about basketball in Africa (http://www.biggamesmallworld.com/twentyfive.html)

Q: Has the international game altered the NBA game?

AW: I think so -- for the better. Remember the way Americans used to denigrate European players as "mechanical"? Today, "mechanical" means "fundamentally sound," and non-Americans -- especially non-American big men -- can pass and shoot in ways that many U.S. players -- perhaps because they skip several years of seasoning in college -- can't match.

To watch the open style and interchangeable parts of the Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks is to see the merit of a free flow of basketball philosophies. Several years ago, it seemed that every team in the NBA believed in dumping the ball into the low post and grinding way. Some teams still deploy that style, at least to some degree. (When you have Shaq, as the Lakers do, why not use it?) But now there's at least a counterpoint. And it's not counterpoint just for the sake of being different. The Kings and Mavs are proving you can win AND please the crowd -- win WHILE passing and moving and shooting.