The USA track and field Olympic trials just wrapped up yesterday. The gymnastics trials are still ongoing. But the Olympic women’s basketball roster was decided two and a half months ago.
Why so early? Especially since WNBA season is about to begin, and athletes could complete their “tryout” by just playing.
Obviously, decisions are political. There’s no other way to explain why one of the best players in the world, Candace Parker, was excluded from the team this time around. If I ruled the world, the criteria would be about skill only, and no personal feelings either way. It would also be about heart and effort. And with this measuring stick, I would surely replace two of the member’s of this year’s team before heading to Rio in a few weeks.
Brittney Griner’s performances have been anemic this season. She’s averaging 6.4 rebounds per game – the same as she did in her rookie season in 2013. She was ranked 13th overall, statistically, but has dropped to 14th the last few days after grabbing four boards against Dallas a few days ago and three last night versus Indiana. Griner is 6-foot-9.
Her point average is also down; currently she ranks 19th overall.
Diana Taurasi is showing out similarly this year. Her point average is up slightly from 2014, the last season she played. But her assists average is way down. Fans and observers have noted that both Griner and Taurasi seem to be playing uninspired basketball, and to be sure, the Mercury continue to struggle this year. Last night, for example, the Fever completely ran over them in the second half.
Perhaps Taurasi and Griner are saving up energy for Rio? I’m not sure they need to conserve as much as they have been, if true.
Then there’s the issue of representing your country. A couple weeks ago both Taurasi and Griner were ejected from a home game after receiving technical fouls. Both left the court screaming curse words. I cringed because, as a teacher, I was thinking of all the kids in the crowd. Rightfully or wrongly, I do not expect WNBA players to act like NBA players.
I would replace Taurasi and Griner on the Olympic team with Parker and Nneka Ogwumike. Parker ranks tenth overall in scoring and Ogwumike, fifth; in the rebound department Parker is ninth and Ogwumike, fifth. Parker is fourth overall in assists and fifth in steals. Ogwumike ranks first in field goal percentage. Both are season MVP candidates and both have guided the Sparks to a 17-1 record with fiery, inspiring play. Parker and Ogwumike are each also outstanding ambassadors for the game.
I don’t care what college a player attended, or for what pro team she plays. I do believe the United States of America should send athletes who represent the best of the game, and who do so in a classy way.
If I ruled the world, I’d put Parker and Ogwumike on the Olympic roster. Today.