Not The Gold Standard

By Gregory Moore
Updated: June 24, 2008

SAN ANTONIO — The women’s version of Team USA in USA basketball is more about politics and likeability and less about really putting the best team forward.

Whether you believe it or not, the truth of the matter is that it is still very hard to believe that Ann Donovan, the women’s head coach, didn’t think that a player like Becky Hammon was good enough to be included on the first list of players to ‘try out’ for the team.

It’s puzzling because Team USA is comprised of mainly WNBA players and it is very puzzling how Donovan or even Renee Brown, the WNBA’s chief of basketball operations and player relations and who is the USA Basketball vice president for senior women and chair of the selection committee.

I’ve heard all the stories that Hammon may not be good enough or that the team was just too loaded with equal talent at her position.


Tell me who is better? Sue Bird?

Not according to this year’s stats and those from previous seasons.

This year Hammon and Bird are almost even in every category so that excuse of she’s not good enough won’t fly.

And with her being the 2007 MVP runner up, it really doesn’t wash.

But let’s see, who else could she not be better than? Lisa Leslie?

They both have good stats this year and where Leslie beats Hammon because she is a center; Hammon beats her because she is a guard.

But you know what? Stats don’t matter. Not to the selection committee.

For them it is all about marketability.

That is why Hammon isn’t on this team and if USA Basketball would just admit that, we might all be fine with it.

The nine players, Leslie, Katie Smith, Simone Augustus, Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Thompson, Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles and Cappie Poindexter, are all marketable players for Team USA. The roster has four players from two teams who are their “star” players in the league.

But yet nobody at USA Basketball thinks it was wrong not to have the league’s runner up to Lauren Jackson on the roster?

And USA Basketball wonders how come so many people are against the program.

The ineptness of its leadership is just totally mind boggling to say the least.

The women’s selection committee is no different than that of the men’s. Both programs are pseudo Machiavellian projects trying to exist in the name of ‘unity’ and competitive spirit.

And I say that as USA Basketball has just released the 2008 Men’s Senior roster: Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozier, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Jason Kidd, DeWayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Deron Williams, LeBron James, Michael Redd, Tashaun Prince and Chris Paul.

Well at least this roster has a bunch of players who are about winning games and who have been working together for a couple of years.

Can’t really say that about the ladies though.

Unlike the men, the ladies pro product is still very much non-existent. Don’t believe me? Read some of the posts about the WNBA and see for yourself.

The American public really doesn’t give a rat’s tail about this league; if they did, more people (equate that to men) would be behind it and more women (equate that to feminists) would be supporting it.

That’s just not happening people.

And so USA Basketball has to put a roster together of women who can transcend several demographics and appeal to a wide range of audience targets.

Hammon doesn’t fit that mold.

To USA Basketball she’s not marketable.

But to Russia and the team she plays for when not playing for the Silver Stars here in San Antonio, CSKA, she is marketable; to the tune of $500,000 per season on a four year, $2 million deal.

Individuals like Donovan call her a traitor but let’s call this what it truly is; capitalizing on your marketability as a pro athlete.

That’s what USA Basketball is doing with its men’s and women’s senior teams so how is that any different? Because they are all American?

That’s a weak excuse in a capitalistic society.

The Olympics, at least as it was once perceived in this country, is not so much about patriotism as it is about marketing this country’s top athletes.

There is big money from corporate sponsors. Companies like Reebok, Pepsi, IBM, Dell and other world corporations are all trying to get their brand names out to the world and the Olympics are the ultimate stage for an ad agency. The only thing bigger may be the Super Bowl.

USA Basketball’s hierarchy knows that and thus they have made sure that the rosters of their top teams have familiar names that have world appeal.

In a capitalistic world there is nothing wrong with that but don’t try to play the patriot card when a player from this country is doing the same thing that you are doing in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It’s hypocritical.

USA Basketball should have been honest from the start and they never should have allowed Donovan to make her now infamous comments about the patriotism of a ball player who deserved to be on the initial list.

It’s ironic that this is an election year and where so many in this country want politicians to be up front and honest with their programs and ideals, we can’t get an organization like USA Basketball to do the same.

USA Basketball has never been about the best team available concept.

The Dream Team concept died in 1992; the first time it was used.

Today it is about marketing. Look at the men’s roster that was announced and definitely look at the nine players for the women named so far.

Best player available in international competition? These rosters don’t represent that.

This is about favoritism, politics and marketing; not about putting best players up against the world.

If it wasn’t true, both squads would not be worrying about how well they are received by the viewing public and more about winning gold every trip out on the international playing field.