International players excel in the NBA

Lesley McCullough

Washington University is a campus rich in diversity with students hailing from all across the nation and many foreign countries as well.

The NBA, too, has grown increasingly diverse in recent years, making the league more of an international playground than ever.

While the emergence of international basketball players has threatened the U.S.’s stranglehold on the sport, it has led to a larger pool of quality basketball players for the NBA to draw from and exciting new players entering the NBA scene.

One need not look further than Texas for evidence of the success of the international players in the NBA. The Dallas Mavericks, led by 7-foot German Dirk Nowitzki, have taken the league by storm, racing off to an incredible 17-1 start.

While the Mavs have played surprisingly well on the defensive end of the floor, they have relied extensively on zone defenses. No matter how effective the zone defense has appeared in the early going, that style of defense is not a viable long-term defensive solution in NBA. Last year, the Timberwolves similarly employed the zone defense to success in the beginning of the season. At the NBA level, however, players and coaches are quick to adjust to the zone schemes, and the ‘Wolves zone was busted in the middle of the season, forcing the team to return to man-to-man defense.

Unless Big D can learn to play solid man-to-man D, the Mavs will fall short of their title aspirations and leave owner Mark Cuban with one sour kraut to deal with.

Just across the state in San Antonio, the Spurs’ hopes for a second title may hinge on their all-international backcourt of Frenchman point guard Tony Parker and Argentine shooting guard Emmanuel Ginobili. Ginobili, whose slashing style and youth are supposed to add much needed athleticism to the Spurs backcourt, looks like the real deal. Sadly for Spurs fans, his three-point stroke, a necessity for the Spurs’ inside-outside game, appears to be as steady as his native Argentina’s currency.

The biggest buzz around the NBA, though, can be found in Houston with the recent strong play of Chinese center Yao Ming. Ming’s excellent play forced loudmouth commentator and former loudmouth player Charles Barkley to kiss fellow colleague Kenny Smith’s “ass” after Barkley agreed that he would do just that should Ming score 19 points in a game. Thankfully, for all parties involved (and the viewing public), Smith had the sense to borrow a donkey and allowed Sir Charles the opportunity to substitute the donkey for Smith’s own posterior.

“Anything less would be uncivilized.”

International players in the NBA may be more numerous and talented than ever, but the path to the NBA title still goes through Los Angeles despite the Lakers’ early season struggles.

With Shaq shaking off the rust in his return from big toe surgery, there is a good chance this season will end the same as the last three-with Mark Madsen displaying his signature dance moves at the victory parade.

The Sacramento Kings remain a threat to derail the Lakers’ title run with a talented team loaded with Eastern Europeans who seem to have left their razor blades back in Europe.

With plenty of interesting storylines and the new international flare of the NBA, this season promises plenty of entertainment and excitement.

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