You ask, we (try to) answer:
Q. What’s up with Pat Riley and the Van Gundys? Didn't Pat give them their starts in the NBA? Didn't they both help Pat when they were his assistants? And now they spend all their time sniping?
— Mort, Brooklyn, N.Y.
A. What happened is each found their own level of enduring success, Riley with his emboldening 2006 championship with the Heat, Stan Van Gundy with his appearance in the 2009 NBA Finals with the Magic, Jeff with his highly successful broadcasting career.
Now each is in a position to speak from a position of power, if you will, as well as without fear of sanction. It's not as if Micky Arison is going to tell Pat to tone it down with the Heat, just as Otis Smith knows you don't get in the way of Stan once he gets rolling. And don't for a second think that ABC/ESPN isn't enjoying the offseason publicity Jeff is providing.
Behind the scenes, I still believe Riley would assist the Van Gundys in a time of need, and I believe the Van Gundy brothers would do the same for Pat.
Remember, this is a game. As for the wordplay, it seems to drive each of the three involved.
Yes, Pat has been huge in the careers of both Jeff and Stan. But, again, each of the two also made major sacrifices along the way to allow Riley to enjoy his glory.
You know what, who cares? If Riley's Miami Thrice wins a championship, he gets the last laugh. If Stan Van Gundy's Magic advance past the Heat to the NBA Finals, then the final chortle is his. And Jeff will have multiple opportunities to have the pulpit of his own when he announces Heat games this season.
You know who I feel worse for? Erik Spoelstra. He counts Stan Van Gundy among his closest friends but also works for Riley. He seems to be the only party in this equation who can't win.
Unless, of course, he wins a championship. Then, I'm sure, his opinion also will enter the equation.
Q. Ira, I read your column last week about how the players on the World Championships team will be replaced for the Olympics. I don't see why, now that they have won a gold medal. Why should Wade, LeBron, Carmelo and Kobe get a free pass?
— Mike, Edmond, Okla.
A. Edmond, Okla., eh?
Look, I appreciate the perspective, especially from that geographic perspective.
For three weeks, Kevin Durant was the best player in the world, with what he accomplished in Turkey. Without Durant, it is possible the U.S. returns from Istanbul without any type of medal.
And by the end of the competition, an argument could be made that Russell Westbrook was as effective as any point guard on the roster.
But that doesn't mean that USA Basketball fielded anything close to its best roster for this competition. And it is undeniable that most of the competition also fielded something less than its A-list, what with Russia lacking Kirilenko, France lacking Parker, Argentina lacking Ginobili, Spain lacking Pau Gasol and Brazil lacking Nene.
In other words, good enough might not be good enough when it comes to the 2012 London Olympics. Wade, Kobe, LeBron, Carmelo and Howard have done enough for USA Basketball to merit the occasional bye.
Truth be told, I think it would be difficult to make an argument for more than five or six members of the U.S. World Championships team to return in 2012.
As an example, Derrick Rose showed such limitations against zone defense that even his place could be in question. And that's no badge of shame. Tim Duncan has not been the type of international force he has been in the NBA. It's simply a different game.
As for the Thunder angle, Durant already has punched his ticket, while Westbrook has two more seasons to show if he truly has enough game to supplant the likes of Chris Paul and Deron Williams for a 2012 berth.
PBT: After it looked like Paul George's heroics would sink the Heat in Game 1, LeBron James stunned Indiana with a layup as time expired to lift Miami in OT.
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