You can find the full article here. Please click it. I want articles like this around until Woj draws his last breath.
My thoughts are in italics. We begin:
"The confetti falls, the star-spangled banner plays and the USA Basketball illusion plays itself out again and again. Here come the Duke and Syracuse coaches hugging the NBA stars, primping for pictures that they'll rush through texts and Twitter to star recruits."
Strong opening. Pull the scales from mine eyes, Woj, for I am blind. Only you see Team USA Basketball for what it truly is.
"Pity poor Serbia, the silver-medalist props to a college recruiting video."
This is a perfect sentence. In just twelve words, Woj reduces an entire nation to a punchline in only the way an American sportswriter referencing something outside of American sports truly can. Do not pity Serbia because ethnic Serbians were attacked trying to vote last year. Of the reasons to pity poor Serbia, forget that former president, Serbian Slobadan Milosovic perpetrated genocide, the Kosovo War, and a whole slew of other not-so-important "ish," the real lament is that Serbia only has the second best basketball team in the entire world right now.
"The World Cup of Basketball is a wonderful event, a well-run, well-coordinated tournament with pride and history and gravitas."
First of all, S/O to "gravitas." One of my favorite words. But this is weird because Woj is being nice. Something bad is about to happen.
"It is something else, too: beneath the threshold of worthiness for NBA stars to participate."
Sometimes to enjoy his articles fully, it helps to imagine what Woj is doing while writing. I like to imagine Woj, midway through his fifth cup of coffee, giving himself a spirited fist-pump when he turned that phrase. The phrase "beneath the threshold of worthiness" is so incredible. You just know he read it out loud to himself. It's almost as if NBA stars didn't willingly choose to participate in this event. Oh wait, they did. But then again, who are the NBA stars to determine what is, and is not, worthy of them.
I'll say this much about Woj. When he throws patriotism under the bus, he doesn't tap the brakes out of deference.
"For Indiana Pacers star Paul George to have broken his leg in a televised pick-up game on the Vegas strip never felt as senseless as did watching the United States hang 129 points on Serbia in the gold-medal game Sunday at Palacio de los Deportes."
I've read this sentence three times, and I get lost halfway through every time. It's a game of Jenga after the penultimate move.
"Outside of Derrick Rose using FIBA as a Double-A rehab assignment and some sportswriters beefing up on Marriott points for post-summer vacations, this tournament was a waste of everyone's time and resources."
Yahoo must have booked Woj at a Motel 6 or something.
"They used to call it the World Championships. Now it's the World Cup of Basketball. This is certain: It has outlived its usefulness for the NBA, and owners and executives will be wise to petition FIBA to reshape the future of international basketball."
The World Cup of Basketball has outlived it's use for the NBA. Yet it was televised largely on NBA TV. Even when the NBA is not profiting off of something they manage to profit off of it.
As one GM told Yahoo Sports, "[Outside of the U.S. team], there's more talent and more interest from basketball fans in the NBA summer league than this event."
I'd like to solve the puzzle: the unnamed GM is Billy King.
"For all the inspiration the U.S. coaches and players tried to drain out of George's injury, understand something: It was in vain."
Sort of like your ability to write cogently.
"He lost a year of his career for the chance to play in a tournament that few watched back home, and even fewer felt mesmerized by across the world. The risk-reward for NBA stars participating in FIBA tournaments has never been so low, the gains of the Mike Krzyzewskis and Jim Boeheims on the bench so high."
I suppose Woj is right, although he either means the "risk-reward" ratio has never been so high (not low), or that the gap between risk and reward has never been so high (not, you know, the word he actually wrote). Let's not allow that to get in the way. Woj is on a roll. He's pissed his editors sent him to a crappy Motel 6 in Madrid, to eat crappy tapas, and to cover the barren wasteland known as "basketball in the rest of the world."
"[Paul] George will be the impetus to end the full participation of NBA stars, but far from the reason. After the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the World Cup of Basketball and Olympic Games are destined to become an under-22 developmental tournament."
The part that Woj leaves out is the actual reason: NBA owners are pissed they aren't making money on Team USA and someone else, you know, is. As Woj would say, the risk-reward for NBA owners has never been so low.
"We need to get our vets out and move our younger players in," one NBA general manager told Yahoo Sports. "The support's there for the change, and it's getting stronger."
The strange thing about all of this is that Team USA was largely comprised of younger players. Only two players over age twenty-five were on the roster, and one of them was brought in to replace Paul George, himself twenty-four. If you were to rank the most talented American players, less than half of the top ten are playing in this tourney (and one of them is using it, to quote Woj "as a Double-A rehab assignment"). The best player on the team is twenty-one.
It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to argue that you have to bring younger players into the international team when you've already done exactly that. The "Under 22" term is code for "more college players." NBA owners are ticked that their players can get hurt playing games they don't profit from.
I don't blame them in the least. But let's call a spade a spade instead of using amorphous code language about making the team "younger."
"No more grinding down of Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as thirty-something stars for countries that desperately need them to compete, no more Yao Ming dragging a battered leg up and down the floor for China. Rival countries to the United States don't have the depth of Team USA's talent, nor the reinforcements to let stars sit out qualifying events, to excuse them to nurse injuries."
In this paragraph, watch as Woj disproves his own point before he even makes it. Manu Ginobili sat out. So did Tony Parker. Yet these countries won't excuse their stars from playing. How evil of other "talent-poor" countries to require their star players to play (even though, you know, they didn't).
"Sooner than later, people will understand: Those most stridently touting the irreplaceable value of USA Basketball are those profiting the greatest from it."
Clearly, Woj hasn't seen one damn penny yet. And he IS PISSED!!! Hide yo kids, hide yo girl! WOJ COMIN!!!
"As much as ever, USA Basketball has been co-opted into a Krzyzewski leverage play for the Duke Blue Devils."
For this section, I'm imagining Woj blaring Tupac's "Hit 'Em Up" while furiously typing in the Madrid Airport. He's not wearing headphones. That's how little of an eff he gives.
"If that doesn't rile Kentucky's John Calipari, wait until the Duke coach is credited for DeMarcus Cousins' maturity with the Sacramento Kings this season."
You know who definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY will deserve no credit for the hypothetical future in which the maturation of Demarcus Cousins is credited to Coach K: John Calipari, the coach whose recruits signed a special non-binding letter of intent with the University of Memphis specifically so he can steal them away should he ever leave to another school.
It's been over four years since John Calipari has coached Demarcus Cousins, and I use the term "coached" loosely.
"The end's coming for USA Basketball's grip on the game in the States, but once change goes into effect come the 2018 World Cup, it won't matter much to Krzyzewski anymore."
Woj drops an interesting tidbit. Singling out the 2018 World Cup sounds like Woj has heard that the NBA owners have set that as the timetable for change. Probably not coincidentally, The NBA owners have an opt-out in the current Collective Bargaining agreement for 2017. Which means they will probably take it. Which means we'll probably have another lockout.
"He still has two full summers of USA Basketball access left to him, and that'll make it a full decade of control."
Just stop talking for a second, bro. I'm still bummed about the 2017 lockout you just #WojBombed on me.
"As one Duke alumnus would tell you: There is a USA Basketball storefront selling patriotism and duty with a backroom reality that peddles the Blue Devils and Nike swooshes."
Bonus points to Woj's final sentence, in which he paraphrases the Atlanta Hawks racially insensitive scouting report for Luol Deng. I'm sure Luol Deng is happy he did this. For those scoring at home, Woj has turned both Luol Deng, and the entire country of Serbia, into punchlines. Yet this was a necessary evil to bring the "seedy underbelly of elite basketball talents volunteering to play for their country for free" to justice.
Or railing against Coach K.
Or whatever it is we're doing here.
"When Team USA goes to the U.S. Military Academy to practice on its pre-tournament tour, guess what the stories are: Krzyzewski returns to his West Point roots. There's Coach K with the cadets. There's Coach K in the mess hall. There's Coach K teaching those rich NBA players about sacrifice and selflessness. People call Calipari the greatest self-promoting coach of his time, but Krzyzewski doesn't get nearly the credit due him. USA Basketball is a machine with its tentacles deep into every level of basketball, and Krzyzewski taps into every element."
Man, Calipari must be so pissed he has to cheat to recruit the best high schoolers while Coach K has tricked USA basketball into doing it for him legally. The Usurper, Coach K has dared to lay claim to Calipari's rightful place atop the "greatest self-promoting coach of his time" throne. It is Calipari's right by birth. He has chartered far too many private planes to far too many NBA Drafts to see his work undone by the likes of Coach K!
Karl Towns. Remember that name. More on him in a minute.
"USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo has set it up for Krzyzewski to have a free run, and he's been strategic and shrewd in its use."
BREAKING: Jerry Colangelo is a puppet controlled by Coach K. #WojBomb
"NBA commissioner Adam Silver gave Krzyzewski a big hug on the floor Sunday night here – another Dukie thrilled about how this partnership has closed the gap on Calipari and Kentucky, and gone a long way toward burying the North Carolina Tar Heels."
BREAKING: Adam Silver and Jerry Colangelo are both puppets controlled by Coach K. #WojBomb
"Krzyzewski never violated an NCAA rule when he climbed aboard a flight, flew cross-country and addressed the 2013 under-19 USA Basketball national team at its Colorado Springs training camp.
While Woj rails agains Coach K for benefiting from the Team USA gig, he fails to mention that Coach Calipari coached the Dominican Republic from 2011-2012, helping them qualify for the very 2014 FIBA World Cup.
No one can argue that coaching the DR would carry the same perks as coaching Team USA. If you ask Calipari why he did it, he will give you answers about promoting the game in a country dominated by baseball (he did so here). He will talk about what a joy it was to lend a helping hand.
What he won't mention is Karl Towns. Ever heard of him? If not, you will.
Karl Towns is Dominican. He is also one of the best amateur basketball players in the world. Draftexpress.com has him projected as the 3rd pick in the 2015 draft. He will be a Freshman at UK next year. On September 12, 2012 UK self-reported Level 2 NCAA infractions surrounding the Dominican Republic national teams training. Karl Towns was invited to try out for the Dominican team... as a sixteen year old. The try outs, of course, were held on University of Kentucky's campus.
The only difference between Coach Calipari and Coach K is that Calipari is more brazen when he uses a national team for his own purposes.
"...For the record, Krzyzewski is USA Basketball's senior national coach and the visit gave him an opportunity to personally welcome those young men into the program's feeder system..."
You know how you might run into your friend's ex-girlfriend, and she may talk your ear off about how big of a dick your friend was because he cheated on her all the time, only you know that she was cheating on him at the same time.
This is beginning to sound a whole lot like that.
"The roster of college stars happened to include two 17-year-old prep phenoms: Chicago's Jahlil Okafor and Houston's Justise Winslow. When Krzyzewski makes his triumphant return this week, two freshmen stars will be awaiting him on Duke's campus: Okafor and Winslow."
Basically, Calipari is pissed Okafor and Winslow aren't Dominican, because then they'd be headed to Kentucky.
"Every four years, Colangelo and Krzyzewski deliver that well-rehearsed routine of the coach wanting to step down only to have the managing director convince him of a return for four more years. Every time, we fall for it."
And yet, we're not quite dumb enough to fall for this article, Woj.
"As long as Krzyzewski needs recruits at Duke, he needs USA Basketball. Why sit in the steamy summer-circuit AAU gyms trying to make eye contact with 16-year-olds, when you can use the media to write about all the close, personal relationships you've developed with LeBron and Kobe, 'Melo and Kevin Durant?"
Speaking of college coaches using the media....Karl Towns.
"...Krzyzewski is a great coach. After the 2006 World Championships debacle, he's done an excellent job with these United States teams. He commands respect and sells a vision."
Wait, I thought he was a self-serving prick who used USA basketball for his own gain. WHAT ARE WE EVEN DOING HERE WOJ!?!?!
"Yet once the top players were willing to play again, the United States was never losing – and it hasn't. The gap has grown in the world again, and the romance of the Dream Teams is slowly, surely dying."
This sentence never exists if Team Spain doesn't get upset in the quarterfinals. Related: the best American players aren't playing. Is this a game where Woj sees how much reality he can ignore in the space of a paragraph?
"Under-22 is the way to go, the best young NBA players and a college superstar or two for introduction into the global market."
Oh, I was lost for a second, but we're back to trumpeting the NBA Owner's agenda, instead of
the former Domincan Republic's head coach Kentucky's head coach.
"The beginning of the end for USA Basketball had come on that August night, when George crumpled to the court and a bone blasted out of his flesh. It was a sick, sobering moment, and the USA players were still talking about it on Sunday night in Madrid."
Amongst the consonance of bones blasting, sick, and sobering, Woj lingered a little too long (see what I did there) on this sentence, and not enough on this doozie two sentences later....
"As the hours passed that August night, Krzyzewski changed the conversation about his involvement in the NBA losing a $100 million star in a worthless scrimmage."
This is one of those sentences that doesn't mean anything. Like, I've seen all these words before, but when they're in this order they just don't make sense. Whose involvement? Coach K's? George's? Changed it from what? And why would he change it to losing a star in a worthless scrimmage?
This sentence is a game of Jenga after the game is over.
"At the foot of George's hospital bed, someone had been waiting to snap the photo of the U.S. national coach reaching down and embracing his stricken player. Suddenly, this most private and personal moment turned out to be anything but that. Within minutes, that image would be flying through Twitter and Instagram for all those moms and dads to see the compassion and caring of Duke's coach."
We've pivoted back to Coach K being a prick.
"So the NBA stars climbed onto the podium on Sunday night at the Palacio de los Deportes, and there was Mike Krzyzewski making his move to the far end, framing himself with the gold medalists."
Coach K sounds like the kid in high school who wins all the awards that everybody hates for no reason at all. He's a prick in the nicest way possible.
"The flashes flickered, the confetti swirled and the NBA had a chance to take a long, long look at the photo and ask itself: Who benefited the most in this picture, and why the hell would we keep doing this?"
The extent to which the NBA can dictate whether their players play in international tournaments is debatable. I'm sure they will try to leverage clauses that prohibit reckless behavior like riding mopeds. Would the NBA dare to attempt to classify playing basketball for country as dangerous? How can they construe putting a basketball through a hoop for country as somehow dangerous, while doing it for the NBA is not?
Maybe there is other language the NBA could leverage their players into pulling out of international basketball. I don't know. I'm not a lawyer, and I don't pretend to be one when I write.
Maybe the best way to imagine Woj is as two Wojs. There's the news-breaker whose Twitter we all obsessively refresh to catch the next #WojBomb. But then there's the second Woj: the character whose skin he occasionally slides inside. This character delivers performance pieces dripping with mock outrage. He starts with a reasonable opinion: the NBA will re-examine how they allow their players to play in non-NBA games. Then he'll throw in a dash of someone he despises (in this case, Coach K). He'll make jokes no one finds funny. He finds reality inconvenient.
The second Woj has one concern, and that is whatever agenda the first Woj gave the second Woj moments before disappearing.