Matt Bullard, where are you when your country needs you? And you too, Fred Hoiberg. Reggie Miller – Uncle Sam wants you! And so does coach Larry Brown, because nobody on Team USA can make a jump shot. At this point, Jason Kapono or Dana Barros would be worth their weight in baklava.
We could spend lots of time and space lamenting the decisions made by Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to pass on the Summer Olympics in Greece. Likewise, we could easily rip USA Basketball officials for selecting a team better suited for selling sneakers than making jumpers. But that's all been said and done.
I figure if we're gonna talk shooting – or lack thereof – let's talk to a shooter.
Casey Jacobsen of the Phoenix Suns can fall out of bed and hit threes. He's making millions in the NBA because he can do something that most of the league can't – SHOOT. A former sniper at Stanford, Jacobsen shot 42 percent from downtown last season, good enough for ninth in the NBA. He's played alongside Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion in Phoenix and doesn't believe the U.S. squad is simply the gang that can't shoot straight.
"These players are capable of shooting," says Jacobsen, "especially from the international line, 20-feet 6-inches. But when you start missing, then it becomes mental. Against the zone, they're daring you to shoot. You'd rather have a hand in your face than be standing there wide open."
As has become woefully apparent, Jacobsen does not believe a group of all-stars or great athletes gives you the best chance of capturing gold. He'd like to see a couple of specialists, like rebounding machine Ben Wallace and tenacious defender Ron Artest, on Team USA. The presence of the hot-tempered Artest would dramatically increase the chances of an international incident, but "that's better than the international incident that occurred when we played Puerto Rico," says Jacobsen, recalling the American's 92-73 loss.
With each game, the U.S. shooting statistics become more gruesome. We're talking William Hung singing bad, Gigli the movie bad, Enron the investment bad. We're talking 10 of 62 from 3-point range in three Olympic games, an as-bad-as-you-wanna-be 16 percent.
Not one to criticize his comrades, Jacobsen believes the lost art of shooting is understandable, a natural part of hoops evolution. There are so many incredible athletes who can run, jump, get into the lane and dunk, shooting has been ignored.
"If I don't live on a lake, then why do I need a boat?" asks Jacobsen.
Now the question is whether anybody on Team USA can throw it in the sea in Greece.
Perspective on Iraq
I know they've been through hell and back and their determination is admirable, but I can't say that I'm rooting for the Iraqi soccer team in the Olympics. The Iraqis survived torture at the hands of Saddam's son Oday Hussein, were reinstated by the International Olympic Committee only a few months ago and then had its coach abruptly quit on them.
This was a team that was left with no soccer balls, no nets and had no lawnmowers to cut the grass practice fields. Yet, the Iraqis won their first two matches in Athens, including a shocking upset of Portugal, before losing to Morocco.
The Iraqis represent a supposedly new, liberated country. But American soldiers are losing their lives daily in the Middle East, and that's hard to ignore – even when just watching a soccer game.
Random Olympic thoughts
- Did the weightlifting guys NOT get the memo? Five competitors were suspended on Thursday for flunking drug tests, including two who were minutes away from lifting. That brings us to a grand total of 21 world-class lifters caught this year, a new BALCO record.
- I have never seen this much beach volleyball coverage in my life – and I grew up in Hawaii. Must be something about hard-body females in skimpy swimsuits that the networks like. All that's missing is Sisqo's Thong Song in the background.
- Track and field events are coming up and I can't wait to see American sprinter Shawn Crawford, also known as the Cheetah Man. Crawford got the nickname after racing a giraffe and a zebra in the Fox TV show, "Man vs. Beast." The bad news is that the zebra won.
- Speaking of speed, Deion Sanders says he may come out of retirement and return to the NFL as a nickel back. Are you kidding me? A nickel back? What's next, Joe Montana coming back to hold on extra points?
When Prime Time was in his prime, Sanders was the best cover corner in the game, capable of shutting down the best receivers in football. At age 37, Deion supposedly still has blazing speed and that may be enough to get him on the Ravens roster. But let's face it – if CBS hadn't dumped Sanders from it's pregame show, he'd be showing up every Sunday in one of his outrageous pinstripe suits – not in shoulder pads. Sounds like Sanders is bored more than anything else.
No question, Sanders brings excitement and pizzazz wherever he goes, but if you're going to return, come back to play every snap and return punts.
- The hypocrisy and antiquated rules of the NCAA continue to defy all common sense. The NCAA has again ruled that Colorado receiver Jeremy Bloom will be ineligible to play football if he accepts skiing-related endorsements.
Bloom is a world champion freestyle skier whose been battling the NCAA over this issue for two years. Keep in mind, it's no problem for coaches to sign endorsement deals with sneaker companies, for schools to jump conferences in pursuit of cold hard cash or for conferences to squeeze every last cent out of television networks to air their games and the Bogus Championship Series.
But if a kid happens to be multi-talented and a ski company wants to pay him to wear their boots, that's a no-no. Bloom is a bright, articulate athlete – exactly the kind of person you'd want to use as an example of what's right about college football – and the bureaucrats that run the NCAA are just too dense to realize it.