BY: ABACUS REVEALS
Despite adopting the traditional rectangular three-second lane, international basketball still offers a good bit of nuance—and perhaps some food for thought—to an American fan. Though long viewed as a more physical brand of ball, international rules call for a player’s disqualification after a mere five fouls—and a technical foul counts towards that DQ. That can spell trouble for a team lacking in depth and/or good sense.
The Olympic tournament, particularly in the preliminary rounds, produced more whistles for ball-handling miscues than a season’s worth of NBA ball. What it lacked were very many “late” whistles…those “wait to see that the shot doesn’t fall” calls that are a little disjointed from the flow of play. (These seemed more and more common as a grinding NBA season wore on.) The Olympic whistles, by and large, had been timely. Hey, if there’s a pivot foot in the rule book, shouldn’t there be a pivot foot in the play?
The perplexing element in the work of these international officials involved lines. Multiple feet seemed to find the sideline stripe. Can a player who catches a pass from the backcourt while straddling center court then “pivot” into the backcourt, or does this create “over and back”? And just when is it that a player is considered “back” in-bounds, and thus allowed to touch the ball?
A pleasant aspect of the play in these Olympics has been the absence of mandatory time-outs. Additionally, only the head coach may request a TO, and one will be granted only at a “dead ball.” Consequently, they really do play—pretty continuously—four 10-minute quarters internationally. (Contrast that with the 10 four-minute runs in college basketball, these days…and that happens BY RULE. Think that doesn’t influence how someone plays or coaches the game? Just askin’!)
One ballyhooed international “tweak” to the game that seemed to have little if any effect in the grand scheme of things is its more liberal interpretations for goal-tending. Andre Iguodala’s non-dunk that caromed off his chest and back up through the goal was just about the only excitement on that front.
In this day and age of multiple, naturalized, and even ancestral citizenships, Olympic rosters frequently offer some head-scratching peculiarities. Serge Ibaka, playing part-time for…Spain? Most of Nigeria’s players are American-born. Australia’s young 6’8” phenom Liz Cambage, ironically, was born in London. And it’s still rather disconcerting to a Baby Boomer seeing a South Dakota girl like Becky Hammon playing for Russia.
Finally—and with no disrespect towards the tremendous achievement of the American players and coaches, both women and men—if you have any “old-school” in your soul, you had to be rooting for France’s women’s team. Smooth-shooting and confidently-named wing Emilie Gomis (pronounced “Go Me!”), patriotically-braided effective post Isabelle Yacoubou (her name sounds like the refrain from a Dr. John N’Awlins tune), feisty little point guard Celine Dumerc and a few of those so-called “glue players.” They gave us the game of the tournament by outlasting an Australia squad that had been together for months (no WNBA yet for these girls!) and that not lost an Olympic game since 1996 to anyone other than the team who arrived in London on a run in excess of 30 games.
The 74-70 thriller had more near falls than the Main Event of a Vince McMahon Pay-Per-View, along with an amazing overtime-forcing, between-two-defenders, off-the-wrong-leg, 50-foot banked prayer by veteran Aussie wing Belinda Snell.
From that final Monday in July, Day 3 of the Games, the silver medal was the Frenchwomen’s to lose. They made sure that did not happen, and their coach was correct. No one was beating the USA; it was quite fitting that the incomparably talented Candace Parker put the Auriemma Crew ahead for good in Saturday’s Gold-Medal Game.
A sincere and hearty Bravo, Le Bleu!