Wednesday, July 24, 2013

LeBron James Puts Away Patriotic Things

No Patriot Games
So the word hits the wire tonight of how LeBron James, a veteran of 10 years of basketball for his country, isn't going to play next summer at the 2014 world championships in Spain. He's also not very likely to play in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, though that decision isn't set in stone. Hell, given what's going on in Brazil right now, and the rage felt by many towards the country's largesse for the World Cup while the poor and middle class take it up the vuvezela, maybe the Olympics won't show up for the Olympics, either.

From a realpolitick standpoint, it's time for LeBron to say no. The US team is going to go through a pretty strong changing of the guard real soon. Kobe Bryant is 34 with the most miles on the legs that a 34 year old has ever had, and he's also fueled by an absurd amount of hate to try to prove Dwight Howard wrong and that the Lakers are still relevant. Dwyane Wade just limped his way through the playoffs at the age of 31; he needs rest a lot more than more international exposure. Chris Paul is 28 and never gets off the floor for the Clippers; same story, different coast for Carmelo Anthony. Chris Bosh is 29 and not going to put himself at risk when his teammates aren't. Andre Iguodala has done nice work as the team's defensive stopper, but he's getting up there as well. The page is being turned.

There's also this: none of these guys are going to become more, or less, popular from their involvement with flag basketball. James could play for his country at every opportunity until he hangs up his sneakers, and it wouldn't increase the size of his bucket in terms of whether or not people like him. The fact that he's been proven wildly correct in his choice of team for which to chase championships does not matter. Nor does the struggles of his old franchise, the way that he came through for the most part in elimination games, or the slowly growing list of top-tier advertisers adding him to the sponsor party. Once you've been in the public eye for a decade, you're not growing the brand, and if you've been playing for the flag for a decade, the thrill is probably also gone.

No, the US Team, for those who care about such things, is going to become the Thunder Team That Wasn't -- Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden -- with the best young talent the country has to offer. Look for Kyrie Irving to get some play, Anthony Davis to get noticed again, and maybe a little love for Paul George. Stephen Curry is made for the international game if his ankles hold up. I think LaMarcus Aldridge would be helpful. and since we're clearly lacking some big men, Roy Hibbert and Tyson Chandler.  Add in the stray rookie or collegian, and we've got a team that...

Well, won't have the best player on the planet any more, and won't be terribly well suited to the international game, with its impetus on big men who can hit jump shots and move the ball on offense. It also won't have experienced point guards that make their teammates better, and never turn the ball over. Assuming Durant doesn't just carry them, this really might not end well... and there's a very real chance that if and when the US loses the next Olympics, it's going to be put at James' feet.

It's almost enough to make you feel sympathy for James?

Nah, didn't think so. But for a second, you almost considered it...

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