Monday, July 9, 2012

UCLA's Love & Westbrook and 2012 Olympic Roster

Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook were selected to represent the US in the London 2012 Olympics.  They are hoping to bring home the US' 2nd consecutive gold medal and 14th overall gold since Olympic basketball's inception in 1936.  These two would only be UCLA's 9th and 10th representatives ever in US men's olympic basketball.  After UCLA sent 5 players in 1936, we've only had 3 more representatives over the years, none on the same team, until this year.  Love and Westbrook were key players on the championship team from the 2010 FIBA World Championships and now they've earned their spots this season.  Though possible team choices in Wade, Rose, Bosh, Aldridge and Howard were all ruled out through injury, it is still very likely that Love and Westbrook would have made the team anyway.  I listed all of UCLA's bball Olympians throughout history.  Honestly, I thought there would have been much more.

UCLA's Men USA Basketball Olympians

Sam Balter
Carl Knowles
Frank Lubin
Donald Piper
Carl Shy

Don Barksdale

Walt Hazzard

Reggie Miller

Kevin Love
Russell Westbrook

US Men's Olympic Bball

The US has won the Olympic Gold in 13 of the 17 tournaments, starting in 1936.  It is well-documented that they were robbed of the 1972 gold by the Soviets and the refs (extremely reminiscent of the 2002 Kings-Lakers robbery).  But the 1980 gold went to Yugoslavia because of the US Olympic boycott (doesn't count if we didn't try).  The 1988 loss of our college kids at the hands of the Soviet pros brought on the addition of NBA pros, resulting in the US unleashing the 1992 Dream Team on the world.  Lastly, the utter failure in 2004 as a result of selfish or incomplete (mentally or physically) players like Iverson, Marbury, Odom and Marion made us realize that the world was catching up, and only our best pros would do.

In response, our 2008 Redeem Team, as it was called, was led by our best superstars in their prime: Kidd, Kobe, Lebron, Wade and Howard.  The others were Paul, Deron Williams, Redd, Anthony, Prince, Boozer and Bosh.  This year's squad was set to bring back all but Kidd, Redd, Prince and Boozer.

As for this year's roster, with pivotal players in Wade, Rose and the 3 skilled big men in Bosh, Howard and Aldridge out due to injury, USA basketball has chosen to not replace position for position, but instead opted for extremely versatile options for quicker and more athletic lineups.  Though Harden would have certainly been axed for Wade, Bosh and Howard would probably have joined Love and Chandler on the frontline.  (It would have been interesting to see if Coach K would have chosen Rose AND Westbrook, since they already have Paul and Williams in the fold.)  Had Howard been healthy, he would have again manned the middle, given Bosh/Love more time at PF, and allowed Lebron/Durant/Anthony more time on the perimeter.

But as it is, the US may not even have the best big men in the Olympics, since Spain has the Gasol brothers and now Serge Ibaka, newly nationalized.  However, the US are obviously still heavy favorites, with an unmatched perimeter depth - the subs could win the gold medal on their own.  Given that only two players would exclusively play their own position, Paul at PG and Chandler and C, I've listed the 2012 roster based on the likely roles they were selected for.  I'm ignoring the fact that Lebron and Carmelo can actually play all 5 positions if necessary.

2012 Roster

Chris Paul

Deron Williams
Russell Westbrook

Kobe Bryant

James Harden
Andre Iguodala

Lebron James
Kevin Durant
Carmelo Anthony

Kevin Love
Blake Griffin

Tyson Chandler

Our starting lineup will probably be: Paul, Kobe, Durant, Lebron (at PF), Chandler.
Rotational subs: Love, Williams, Westbrook, Anthony.
Bench (only when necessary): Harden for 3 pointers, Iguodala for D, Griffin for big men foul trouble.

1992 Dream Team

Just saw NBA TV's documentary, "Dream Team".  Besides Stockton's incognito stroll through Barcelona and Barkley's willingness to say anything, the most memorable scene was the intense Monaco intra-squad scrimmage fueled by Magic and Jordan's trash-talking.  If you think about it in terms of collecting the best basketball players, Isiah Thomas and Dominique Wilkins ought to have been on the team.  But for reasons of team chemistry (Thomas) and defensive effort (Wilkins), Stockton and Mullin (chosen for his shooting) were clearly the better options.  Looking back, it is incredible that they managed to gather 11 Hall of Fame players together.  I'm still not sure why Laettner needed to be included.  Though he's possibly the greatest collegiate player of all time, he's contributed really nothing since then.  However, I suppose its better to have a willing bench-warmer than a 5th NBA allstar PF/C who seethes over lack of minutes.

Magic, Stockton

Jordan, Drexler

Pippen, Bird, Mullin

Malone, Barkley, Laettner

Robinson, Ewing

So how would our best US squad today (not taking into account injuries) fare vs the '92ers?

Magic/Stockton vs Paul/Rose/Westbrook
Well, Magic/Stockton have the size and superior court vision.  Our PGs today hold the edge in speed and athleticism.  I love Magic, but quick guards were the Dream Team's only weakness, and the '12 PGs would be light-years faster than anything they've ever seen.  Edge: 2012.

Jordan/Drexler vs Bryant/Wade
Jordan always wins.  Always.  Eat your heart out, Kobe.  Edge:1992.

Pippen/Bird/Mullin vs James/Durant/Anthony
This tips 2012's way.  Yes, Pippen might be one of the greatest defenders of all time, but Bird was an old Bird and Lebron is a specimen that even Pippen thinks might be the GOAT (besides Jordan).  I didn't even mention Durant or Anthony in their primes.  Edge: 2012.

Barkley/Malone vs Love/Bosh
Barklone wins in a landslide.  They would have to scrape Bosh off Malone's shoe. Edge: 1992.

Robinson/Ewing vs Howard/Bynum
Easily the most lopsided of all positions.  Edge: 1992.

The '92 team would eat the '12 team alive.  Their 11 Hall of Famers to, at most, 7 guys who might make it to Springfield one day (hmm, Kobe, Lebron, Durant, Paul, maybe Rose, Wade, Howard or even Love) from current day?  Especially in the post, the '12 team would get crushed.

No comments:

Post a Comment