In the wake of a successful second season with the Detroit Pistons, center Greg Monroe had good reason to be considered for Team USA's entrant into the Men's Basketball tourney at the Olympics. The offensive-minded center made well over half his shots for the second year in a row, nearly averaged a double-double on his way toward 15.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, and his touch around the hoop would be a helpful addition to an Olympic squad that is short on low post scoring. Team USA passed, though, and Monroe's absence can be argued away.
To not be admitted to the Select Team, a group of youngsters that gets to scrimmage against the final Team USA roster? To miss out in favor of the inclusion of players like Lance Thomas and Greg Steimsma? That's more than a little shocking. And Monroe is more than a little peeved. From a discussion with Detroit News' Vincent Goodwill:
"No disrespect to those guys, looking at the Select Team roster, I felt like I should've been on there," Monroe said. "That's just the confidence I have in myself."
I am just a little bit disappointed," Monroe said. "I think, (although) some people don't think so, I should've at least been invited. All of those guys deserved it."
Greg ends on a tactful note, but the inclusion of Steimsma and Thomas ahead of Monroe is pretty jarring. Goodwill notes that Team USA boss Jerry Colangelo stuck with those particular reserve bigs because they played in the Pan America games last summer, but to leave Monroe on the outside looking in while older players (like San Antonio's DeJuan Blair and Chicago's Taj Gibson; who have a year on Monroe in terms of NBA experience but a year and a half and five years on him in terms of age) get an invite seems a bit strange.
Monroe is not without his faults, as a player. He turned in another poor showing defensively in 2011-12, struggling to move his feet or provide weak side help. His turnover issues could use some help, and he worked for a team that would have turned in just 28 wins were 2011-12 not a lockout-shortened year.
And that's about it.
Monroe is a terrific offensive player. Even working in a Piston offense that didn't seem to feature him as much as it should, and without a typical pass-first point guard on the roster, he still came through with a fantastic season. And unlike most low post scores of his ilk, Monroe knows how to dish the ball — his 14.5 assist rate (the percentage of possessions he uses up that turn into assists) ranked him 13th overall among centers. No big man ahead of Monroe on that list was anywhere near his age.
The closest, in terms of age? Steimsma. Who also averaged a combined 6.1 points and rebounds in 2011-12, and is nearly five years older than Monroe.
This is no great travesty, and Monroe doesn't treat it as such in Goodwill's feature. It remains a strange oversight, though, when a player who was potentially good enough to make varsity is denied a spot on the JV team.
The high school allusion wouldn't be lost on Greg. From the News:
"Always," Monroe said. "It always will. I don't forget anything. Anything. I remember what people said in high school. It's always motivation."
Good thing. And coupled with the just-as-doubted Andre Drummond in Detroit this season, we're looking forward to four shoulders' worth of chippiness from the up and coming Pistons this season.
And lord help Steimsma's Celtics, and whatever the hell team Lance Thomas plays for, when they line up against Detroit.