While several NBA observers are suggesting Josh Childress' defection from the Atlanta Hawks to Olympiakos, one of the two major clubs in Athens, is a precursor of more to come - with more NBA-caliber starters splitting for bigger money overseas - I am not convinced.
After the brawl
I didn't catch the replays of the brawl involving the Detroit Shock and L.A. Sparks until late Tuesday night, but my initial reaction after watching the incident several times is that Plenette Pierson instigated the whole ugly incident, and should be punished accordingly. From the replays on ESPN, which broadcast the game, it was unclear exactly what happened between Detroit assistant Rick Mahorn and Sparks center Lisa Leslie. And while Leslie has accused the massive Mahorn of pushing her to the court, I am going to rely on the courtside viewpoints of the ESPN broadcast crew, especially Doris Burke, who says that everyone in her broadcast crew felt Mahorn was trying to separate players and play the peacemaker. Sometimes, you just have to be there ...
As for Burke, who is one of the nicest, most knowledgeable people in the game, she is fast emerging as the best female analyst in the business. One of the things I like about her - and I feel the same way about the Monarchs' Kara Lawson, who works for ESPN and the Kings - is that she isn't intimidated by anybody. She says what she thinks, doesn't broadcast to keep everybody happy. I wish there were more women in the industry like Burke ... and Lawson.
What might have been
New Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, who is among the many USA Basketball officials who select players for the national teams, excused himself from a conversation with me yesterday at the Team USA media session to offer a few words to Robin Lopez. The "other" Lopez twin is on the Select team, otherwise known as the scrubs and up-and-coming NBA players auditioning for future roster spots. Dawkins could be heard telling Lopez that he played well, and that he expected the former Cardinal to enjoy a long NBA career.
When the two were finished talking, I asked Dawkins if he allowed himself to wonder how much more appealing his 2008-09 roster would be if the twins had returned for a junior year. "All the time," Dawkins replied, laughing.
No more boundaries
NBA types have long assisted the Olympic efforts of other nations, most notably Donnie Nelson's long association with Lithuania's teams, dating to the 1992 Barcelona Games. This year, of course, Chris Kaman is playing for Germany and Becky Hammon is on the roster for Russia. Yet earlier today at the Team USA practice in Las Vegas - looking at the clock, it was yesterday - I gave Toronto Raptors assistant Jay Triano an especially hard time. One of the assistants working with P.J. Carlesimo's staff with the Select team, Jay is a Canadian, a very close friend of Steve Nash, and just happens to be the former Canadian Olympic coach (2000). Now, he's helping out the Americans?
Well, why not? Triano, who guided the Canadian national team from 1999-2004, will work as a commentator for the CBC at the Beijing Games. Guess he'll know what he's talking about when the Americans recapture the gold. Seriously, I don't see anyone beating them this time, though this team is not nearly as imposing as the 1992 Dream Team or the 2003 national team that dominated the qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico. That roster would have won the gold in Athens, no question. Everyone seems to forget that, among Larry Brown's 2003 squad, only Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson stuck with the program. Everyone else bailed for various reasons, mostly fearing terrorism in Athens.