Graziano: USA basketball exposes greed of NBA

Christopher A. Smith

I am not one who gets excited for international competitions outside of a handful of events at the Olympics. For instance, you will not find me watching the World Championships of Figure Skating on a Saturday afternoon.

But what took place at the World Basketball Championships last week in Indianapolis was impossible to ignore.

Remember the following names: Elton Brand, Antonio Davis, Baron Davis, Michael Finley, Raef LaFrentz, Shawn Marion, Andre Miller, Reggie Miller, Jermaine O’Neal, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace and Jay Williams.

Also remember the name of head coach George Karl. Because together, these 13 men represent the most embarrassing team in the history of the United States.

In case you did not know, USA Men’s Basketball held an impressive, yet appropriate, 58-0 record in international competition. The streak began with the 1992 Dream Team led by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and company.

That was until the United States ran into the powerful, Pepe Sanchez-led Argentines. Karl’s group of heartless, greedy NBA losers was unable to handle this savvy collection of athletic basketball excellence.

Hopefully you can sense the sarcasm, because I am laying it on pretty thick.

“I’m embarrassed,” Davis said. Well, Baron, so are the rest of us. The United States never even held a lead against Argentina. There is no way any group of NBA players should even be threatened by some of the teams that the rest of the world sends to these championships.

If you want a sense of how bad these teams really are, I will make a comparison. They are worse than Rutgers football.

Alright, maybe I am being a bit harsh. After all, no one can be perfect, right?

So one would think USA would rebound against another inferior opponent, Yugoslavia. Instead, a blown 10-point lead produced another loss.

Follow that with a blown 13-point fourth quarter lead in a third consecutive loss to Spain, and you have a metamorphosis in the landscape of international basketball competition.

So why were the Americans so bad? Karl was right on target when he blamed his team’s performance on the greed of the NBA. Well, too bad Karl was too lazy himself to do anything about it.

It was only a matter of time before the carelessness and showboating of the NBA affected the country’s basketball image. Look no further than the Americans’ 63 percent free-throw shooting percentage during the tournament to see how poor NBA play has become.

While the rest of the world is working on passing, shooting and playing team defense, you can take a tour of gymnasiums in the United States and see players glorifying themselves with one-on-one moves that produce countless dunks and little else.

That is why college basketball has become more popular in this country.

Fans like myself would rather watch Jay Wright mold a talented group of players into a cohesive, unit, rather than watching immature high-schoolers jump into their Bentleys and drive straight into ESPN’s “The Life.”

The only thing missing in their lives are championship rings and respect.

But who needs that when you can finish sixth in the World Basketball Championships?