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Chatting with K Kveraga off-line made me think of reasons why the World
Championships are worth paying attention to, especially in light of the
NBA lock-out:

1) Jimmy Oliver and Michael Hawkins have surprisingly taken leadership
roles on Team USA. Hawkins set a Team USA record for assists (10) in the
opener and Oliver was the leading American scorer in the Lithuania
game.  It's great to root for Celtics guys.
2) It's fun to cheer for "bubble" NBA players. I'll wager that most of
us on this list were once "bubble" players at some level of basketball,
wherein despite our dedication to improve we were too slow or short to
play at the next level (in my case, that may have been elementary
school). Similarly, guys like Andrew Gaze and Arturas Karnishovas were
heartbreakingly competitive Big East athletes with textbook fundamental
skills who got dissed by the NBA. Those guys really helped their teams
win and play smart basketball. As for the CBA guys, they all play in
obscure, blue-collar North American towns on CBA teams with deliberately
odd names, mascots etc. So imagine how great it feels for Wendell Alexis
and these other basketball "failures" (NBA wannabes and never weres) to
be called on to represent the national team?
3) It's fun to watch ANY competitive basketball game, especially between
different nations and cultures. In contrast to recent "Dream Teams", we
can actually root for Team USA without getting the queasy sense that
we're cheering on a bunch of crass, showboating bullies who personify
the worst side of the "Ugly American" image abroad. If Americans were
truly insecure or outraged by the wily foreign pros vs.US college kids
phenomenon (I think that most Americans could care less, now that the
Cold War is over), then I would prefer that the US introduce an under 22
squad to the Sidney Olympics (in order to make up for all the
college-age early entrants to the NBA draft).  For example, a US team
built around the lottery class of '96 (Iverson, Marbury, Antoine,
Shareef, Kobe etc) would do just fine IMO against other national squads.
The games would be competitive enough and the US players would be
fresh-faced enough that it would be easy-as-pie for even non-Americans
to root for and appreciate the gorgeous beauty of the US style of
basketball (which IMHO has all other team sports for breakfast.)

I had a fourth good reason but I forgot it and want to go home to my
wife and pooch.  Anyway, I think the NBA should root for and commend
Rudy T, Hawkins, Oliver, Trajan "Alaskan Assassin" Langdon and noble
crew to defend the championships and thereby bail out the US from having
to play regional qualifying matches - during the 1999-2000 NBA season -
to get to the Sidney games.

Enough of this. Sorry if this post seems off-topic once again. I know
and apologize in advance, so please don't send me off-line hate mail.

BTW, I recommend Josh's latest Celtics article if you haven't clicked to
it yet.

Enjoy the weekend,