Should Artest Be in Athens?

by Jeff Tzucker
by Conrad Brunner

August 25, 2004

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

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Conrad Brunner

Q. What do you think about (Ron) Artest's claim (in Tuesday’s New York Post) that he deserved a spot on the U.S. team? Do you think he could have made a difference in the losses that this team has suffered so far this Olympics? Do you think the players who declined will be inclined to play next time that they are asked if the U.S. does not win the gold? I remember after the last time, the players all seemed determined to make a better showing in the Olympics. But then when it came down to it, many of them declined. I speculate the same would happen again. The bottom line seems that the NBA players don't feel compelled to play for their country. At least Artest has his priorities straight. (From Ron in Indianapolis)

A. It is admirable to see a player with such a strong desire to represent his country, and Artest certainly deserved consideration. But it would be a leap to assume his presence would’ve made a major difference in how the U.S. team has performed in Athens. Because of the way the international game is officiated, the style of play is much more free-flowing and offense-centric. Artest’s physical defensive style might not translate. The U.S. team’s major offensive flaw has been poor 3-point shooting and Artest, a career .314 shooter from the arc, wouldn’t solve that problem. A better case could be made for Reggie Miller because of the threat he’d pose from the international game’s closer 3-point line.

As for priorities, while I understand the point you’re making, I’m not sure I completely agree. For an NBA player, the primary goal should be to win an NBA championship, not an Olympic gold medal. The O’Brien Trophy should be the first priority. This is not to discount the importance of the Olympics, but to keep the Games in perspective. The selection committee did a solid job assembling the original roster but the numerous withdrawals – some due to injury, some due to security concerns – forced quite a bit of 11th-hour scrambling, which resulted in a flawed team. Even if the U.S. rallies to win the gold medal, the problems in Athens will force the basketball community to re-examine the entire process. That should include some soul-searching from the players who declined their invitations, and may well result in a much stronger team in four years.