It got so bad at the world basketball championships, I don't think many people noticed that our guys actually lost AGAIN. Yes, three times in all. They lost the fifth-place game Saturday night after blowing a 16-point lead.
Please, spare me from all the talk about the U.S. players who didn't participate. You don't need Shaq and Kobe to beat Argentina or Spain. You just need an average group of NBA players willing to pull together and play hard.
But that's so hard to find these days. You think Sacramento had the best personnel behind the Lakers last year in the NBA? No way. Not even close. Heck, Portland had more talented players. But the Kings played as a team. Played hard as a team.
In basketball, that's how you win. And if we've forgotten it, don't blame just the NBA. That's hoops from high school to the pros these days Ñ trash talking, posing, posturing, preening, grandstanding. It's one-on-one. It's chest-pounding. It's 'Look at me!'
The NBA stars look at international play as some kind of basketball version of Club Med. Guys, this isn't just something for your resume. It's an actual competition.
And George Karl coached as if afraid his players would go home if he screamed at them to do it any other way. His comments after the first USA loss were appalling.
'I still think it's a tremendous celebration of basketball,' he said.
Yeah, right. I'm sure the lads in Mexico were saying the same thing about soccer when the U.S. team beat them.
And let's make this clear Ñ it's not as if Karl's team was playing just fine and the rest of the world suddenly caught up. Well, it's caught up a little. But just a little. And, sure, some countries are good enough, on a great night, to beat the U.S. team. I wouldn't even mind that ÑÊif our guys would dive into this thing 100 percent. If they would bust their tails. Play together. Act as if this is more than an opportunity to pad their sweet endorsement deals.
If they don't want to play hard, I think we should just drop out of the whole thing. Stay home and let the rest of the world dream of getting an NBA team.
And don't tell me you want to send a team of college players. There's the same amount of garbage in college, except there's also a lot of posing on the sideline by supposed genius coaches who turn out players for the NBA who don't know the first thing about playing defense.
Losing is never a disgrace, and I resent people who say it is. But failing to put forth maximum effort is the ultimate embarrassment to a true professional.