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Chicago JK
06-16-2003, 02:46 PM
Born in the U.S.A. Is No Guarantee
By MIKE WISE


AST RUTHERFORD, N.J., June 13 Globality cannot be found in the dictionary but it has become Commissioner David Stern's favorite new word. It has something to do with the synergy between American basketball and the world, and how he eventually wants Guam and Chechnya in the N.B.A. finals.

Or any nation ready and willing to market T-shirts that read, "Yao Goin' Make Me Lose My Mind."


Spreading the game around the globe has always been a bold and risky notion. But lately it is beginning to frighten the home front, gauging by scenes from the finals.

Near the end of the first half of Game 4 Wednesday night, Tony Parker locked eyes with Manu Ginóbili with three seconds on the shot clock, a Frenchman signaling to his Argentine teammate to cut to the basket for a layup.

On-court communication what a concept, no?

Or how about the rookie Ginóbili going behind his back at midcourt and leaping over Jason Kidd early in the fourth quarter. He hit this crucial 3-pointer with about six minutes left, made two big free throws with less than three minutes remaining and stole a Kidd pass a few seconds later.

Then there is Mr. Fundamental from the Virgin Islands, with no formal church league or Y.M.C.A. training. Tim Duncan is undeniably the most valuable player in the league, playing the game that James Naismith invented and time forgot.

And consider how much Dikembe Mutombo, from Congo, has affected this series, changing shots like Bill Russell did 35 years ago?

Attention: All playground legends from Venice Beach to West Fourth Street and every place in between America needs your help. Now.

The Spurs and Nets went at each other in Game 5 tonight, competing with players who never attended a five-star camp, who never had a coach sacrifice a university's integrity on their behalf and never embarked on an And 1 Mix Tape tour. ESPN never filmed their high school games.

"We need another Michael," the television analyst Sean Elliott, a former Spurs forward, said the other night. "They say LeBron James has that kind of talent, and maybe he'll be the next guy, someone young that everybody is buzzing about. But the jury is still out for a few years."

Bill Walton, too, is tired of the denial.

"Until our parents, coaches, the networks and magazine writers start to address the truth, we're in trouble," Walton said. "Don't say, `this is an anomaly.' Don't say, `this is bad basketball.' Just be honest and admit, like our country, somehow we've let things slip."

Used to be, some soft 7-footer would show up from overseas, Uwe Blab or Manute Bol, get some university tutelage, sit on the bench, make some money and have a few laughs.

Now the league gets point guards who can skitter and slash and shooting guards able to knock down 3-pointers more proficiently than Reggie Miller. Proof of how suddenly the floodgates have opened, Ginóbili did not even know he was drafted in 1999 he figured that as a European League player he was not tall enough to capture the N.B.A.'s interest.

Everyone knows what happened in the world championships last summer in hoops-obsessed Indiana. A United States team loaded with N.B.A. players got drummed in a few games, the first time that had happened to American professionals. Does anyone think a team featuring Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, two guys who need the ball in their hands, cannot lose in Athens next summer?

Sharing is caring, but this is getting out of hand. You want to stop the provincialism and accept all the wondrous new talents from around the world, to enjoy the way they blend their games with the N.B.A. game and to leave it that. But you keep running into foreigners in the press room, taking the last piece of coconut cake the way Ginóbili took the ball from Kidd.

And those omnipotent coaches from abroad, shaking their heads as if you should have seen this coming.

Pini Gershon, a stout, white-haired 54-year-old Israeli coach who guided Maccabi-Tel Aviv to the SuproLeague title two years ago, has been doing commentary on the N.B.A. finals for an all-sports network back home. Standing courtside Wednesday night before Game 4, he said American basketball is in more trouble than you thought.

"You think the coaches in Europe are better than the N.C.A.A.'s?" he asked. "Right now, we have 56 Europeans in the N.B.A. and another 10 will come in this year through the draft. They are more experienced, more stronger than college players."

Gershon said that college coaches in America are more interested in putting a player in the N.B.A., finished product or not, than they are in developing talent.

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There is an odd twist to the trend. With so many good foreign players wanting the big money and the N.B.A. life, it has actually become cheaper in some instances for European teams to take American players, Gershon said.

"Basketball in Europe is going down because of this," he said.

Imagine 2010, a game where all the former college stars and schoolyard kings are holding court for Benneton Treviso, while Yao Ming and Darko Milicic duel in the finals.

It is a delicate topic for the players union, which publicly embraces Stern's global dreams but privately wonders how many of its members will be American in the coming years. How does Billy Hunter, the union's executive director, justify going to bat for underage foreigners many of whom are white when the N.B.A.'s modern era was bought, marketed and predominately paid for by the sweat, savvy and desire of black athletes?

Maybe that is a question for another day. Maybe, like Mutombo said before Game 4, it should be about appreciation rather than alarm.

"I don't look at this like the game is in trouble because of all these foreigners," Mutombo said. "I am happy for everybody that showed we can play, too."

There was an impressionable kid upstairs in section 117 of Continental Arena tonight. His name is Edwin Toro. He is a 5-foot, born-and-bred New York City point guard out of P.S. 111, the Adolph Ochs School, in Hell's Kitchen.

Who is his favorite N.B.A. player? "I love Peja Stojakovic," Toro said. "My favorite rookie? Ginóbili. He can play."

Toro was asked what impressed him about the foreign players.

"They can shoot, I can shoot," he said. "I relate with them."

Keep playing, Eddie. You may be our last chance.

OutletPass
06-16-2003, 02:53 PM
"Until our parents, coaches, the networks and magazine writers start to address the truth, we're in trouble," Walton said. "Don't say, `this is an anomaly.' Don't say, `this is bad basketball.' Just be honest and admit, like our country, somehow we've let things slip."

-- Walton making sense...will wonders never cease ? As an aau coach, i've got to back him up on this one....



but only this one.


Nice post, JK !

Drbio
06-16-2003, 03:05 PM
I thought the same thing OP. Maybe Walton ran out of weed and has come out of his three decade stupor long enough to formulate a rational thought. Enjoy it now because he gets paid again on the first and I doubt the weed bag stays empty for long.

OutletPass
06-16-2003, 03:11 PM
Too true, Doc.

But I doubt that he's EVER with his ..er...sources.

just thought this was the first spot on thing I've heard him say in forever and a day.