1. Season-Ending Award Winners
Another season of Weekend Dimes concludes in the traditional (and the only permissible) fashion.
Year-end award ballots!
After receiving our annual invitation from the league office to vote on six individual awards as well as the All-NBA teams, I share those selections here first as usual in what serves as your third, final and fully transparent trimester report of the 2009-10 campaign.
The actual ballots, for the record, are due back to the league office by Thursday at 3 p.m.
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Don't believe it when you hear that the NBA's Most Valuable Player race is generating zero suspense.
A modest double dose of uncertainty is there as long as you know where to look and as long as you were listening when we said modest.
LeBron James' MVP coronation for a second straight season has been expected for months, once it became clear that the Cavaliers were headed for the league's best record without an All-Star on the roster besides LeBron.
Cleveland indeed became just the 12th team to post consecutive 60-win seasons, leaving us with only two more relevant questions:
1. Will LeBron be a unanimous MVP this time as opposed to merely securing 109 of a possible 121 first-place votes like last season?
2. Who will finish second?
James has to have a real shot at the unanimous part. Has to. Still scoring the ball like a young Jordan while taking his passing game to new heights, LeBron has carried the Cavs to another 60-plus victories in what could have been a far more difficult season, given the thumb injury that interrupted Cleveland's Shaquille O'Neal experiment and the raging uncertainty that surrounds LeBron's future.
As for second place, Orlando's Dwight Howard suddenly has the edge, boosted by the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers' ever-clutch Kobe Bryant has been playing hurt for much of the season but also because Howard is improving offensively at last and playing the best two-way ball of his life.
Young Kevin Durant gets the third-place vote here as a reward for putting Oklahoma City -- without warning -- within range of a 50-win season after last season's 23-59 misery, dueling LeBron for the scoring title and playing better D than you think. Bryant and Miami's Dwyane Wade are next, just ahead of Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, Phoenix's Steve Nash, Denver's Carmelo Anthony and Utah's unheralded Deron Williams.
October prediction: James
Rookie of the year: Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
The runaway preseason ROY favorite didn't play a game this season.
The rook who was presumed to have inherited Blake Griffin's shoo-in status by Christmas is no longer a lock, either.
Or maybe we should have expected such developments. Aren't there always surprises when rooks are involved?
Griffin was the can't-miss ROY back in October until it was suddenly announced that the No. 1 overall pick in June -- just like Portland's Greg Oden in 2007 -- would miss his whole first season with the Clippers.
What Griffin ended up missing -- besides a disappointing fade back to the lottery that cost Mike Dunleavy both of his jobs with the Clips -- is a race that unexpectedly has us digging around in vain for a three-sided coin.
Evans has the advantage of season-long consistency and, as long as his scoring average doesn't slip in the season's final hours, highly persuasive statistical support for his campaign: Sacramento's first-year bulldozer is about to join Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only rookies to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Evans' problem? Curry has been statistically superior since January, ranking as the league's best rookie scorer for the past four months of a sixth-month regular season and answering those inclined to downplay his numbers as a product of the Warriors' street ball ways by delivering at a high level of efficiency: 46 percent shooting from the floor, 43.2 percent shooting on 3-pointers and 87.8 percent from the free-throw line.
The problem that Evans and Curry share, of course, is neither has played in a game that truly matters for months, which theoretically devalues some of those gaudy numbers. Jennings, meanwhile, has been quarterbacking a playoff-bound team for a famously demanding coach since opening night. We haven't really seen that -- at least not to the degree of success that the Bucks were having until Andrew Bogut went down -- since San Antonio's Tony Parker was a rookie in 2001-02.
Do you punish Evans and/or Curry because, through no fault of their own, they wound up on such bad teams?
Or did Jennings sabotage his ROY campaign by setting the bar so ridiculously high with that 55-point game against Curry's Warriors in November, only to struggle with his shot so noticeably (37 percent from the field this season) during the next five months, that it offsets any extra credit he gets for otherwise succeeding in the face of playoff-related pressure?
It's Evans, by a fraction, on this scorecard, on the strength of his start-to-finish success and despite Curry's hard push and my usual lefty love for Jennings.
But this vote really wasn't supposed to be that tough. And it left almost no time to get into all the other interesting rookies such as the New Orleans duo of Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton, Oklahoma City's James Harden, San Antonio's DeJuan Blair, Denver's Ty Lawson, Chicago's Taj Gibson, Dallas' Rodrigue Beaubois and that Casspi kid on Evans' squad.
October prediction: Blake Griffin
Coach of the year: Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
Tidy as it would be to narrow this one down to the two Scotts, that just can't be done.
Not without slighting several very deserving coaches.
I'm proud to say I had Phoenix in the top 10 of the season's first edition of the Power Rankings -- barely -- but I certainly didn't have Alvin Gentry keeping them in the hunt for the No. 2 seed in the West heading into the final few days of the regular season. Did anyone else expect Gentry's benching of Amare Stoudemire in the fourth quarter of a late-January win over Dallas to serve as the spark to change the whole tenor of the Suns' season?
I also didn't have Larry Brown, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson clicking like they have in Charlotte or Nate McMillan holding Portland together through a ridiculously cruel run of injuries (including McMillan's own Achilles tear) or Rick Adelman conveniently ignoring that we all expected the Yao-less Rockets to plummet straight into the lottery or Jerry Sloan (still waiting for his first COY nod after more than two decades of coaching) driving this Jazz from the land of .500 (19-17) to their own bid for No. 2 in a season marked by the luxury-tax-motivated dumpings of Ronnie Brewer and rookie Eric Maynor and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Carlos Boozer's future.
But those two Scotts stand out nonetheless.
Scott Skiles finally ushered Andrew Bogut to the franchise-player status earmarked for the Aussie center when he got to the pros in 2005, managed Jennings' first season better than anyone said he would, resurrected multiple forgotten names (Ersan Ilyasova, Carlos Delfino and vet Jerry Stackhouse) and plugged John Salmons in midstream for the injured Michael Redd with zero bother. In short? Skiles quickly transformed the Bucks into the East's surprise team by likewise transforming them into a respectable defensive team.
Skiles' problem? Scotty Brooks narrowly topped that COY case with his considerable influence on the young Thunder, who didn't add much beyond rookie James Harden to a group that won 23 games last season and still evolved into a team no one wants to see in the first round. Meshing the undeniable talents of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with a true team approach to defense and rebounding, Brooks has OKC sitting just two wins away from 50 in what might be the toughest 1-to-8 jumble in the West that we've ever seen.
Which is why Brooks -- that rare Anteater impervious to my lifelong disdain for UC Irvine -- has my COY vote.Stein's ballot
October prediction: Phil Jackson
2. Awards, Part Deux
Sixth Man Award: Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
The trade that transformed Carl Landry into a starter in Sacramento and Manu Ginobili's return to savior status once he took the injured Tony Parker's place as a starter in San Antonio admittedly did take all the suspense out of this category.
Yet I suspect Crawford would have won Sixth Man Award honors even if those guys didn't exit the field. And rightly so.
Heretofore branded as a gunner whose nine seasons without tasting a playoff game were not necessarily a coincidence, Crawford gave himself a total makeover in Atlanta, ranking as perhaps the NBA's most influential offseason acquisition by leading the league in 20- and 25-point games as a reserve -- 30 and 14, respectively -- to give the Hawks an off-the-bench offensive dimension they seriously lacked.
All 76 of Crawford's appearances, furthermore, have come off the bench. If he doesn't start in any of the Hawks' final six games, Crawford will rank as the second-most productive scorer used exclusively in a reserve role during the past 40 years, bested only by Milwaukee's Ricky Pierce in 1989-90 (23.0 points per game).
Cleveland's Anderson Varejao, meanwhile, finishes second in a surprisingly deep field because this was the season -- at least on this scorecard -- when he became the Cavs' second-most influential player on top of his growing reputation as an elite defender.
And last season's Sixth Man Award winner, Jason Terry, snags third despite struggling more than usual with his shot. He benefits from Landry's new starter status but is rewarded for his ongoing fourth-quarter impact while playing hurt with that mask in Dallas, even though the Mavs have drastically upgraded their talent since last season.
October prediction: Rasheed Wallace
Most improved player: Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats
I understand the sentiment. There will be a strong push for Kevin Durant to win the MIP, because it's not often that we see someone zoom from rising star to legit MVP candidate in the space of one season.
But I won't be part of that push.
Durant and Bogut -- just to name two of the most improved players on Earth -- were drafted No. 2 and No. 1 overall, respectively. This is where I repeat my long-held belief, weary as you might be to hear it again, that players drafted that high are supposed to be this good. They'd be underachieving otherwise and thus not my kind of MIPs.
After a brief detour to Devin Harris last season, I insist on saving my MIP vote for players who didn't come into the game with such high ceilings. Lower lottery picks are OK, but not your Durants and Boguts or Durant sidekick Russell Westbrook.
The list, frankly, is long enough doing it my way. Among those considered here: San Antonio's George Hill (such a strong fill-in for the injured Tony Parker), Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova (love how Nuggets exec Bret Bearup dubbed him "Turk" Nowitzki), Chicago's Joakim Noah (look what happened to the Bulls when he was hurt), Minnesota's Corey Brewer (who complemented his Wallace-esque defensive potential with 78 3-pointers after making just 12 in his first two seasons), Memphis' Marc Gasol (scouts like to joke that they thought he was adopted until this season, when he was a lot more Pau-like), Atlanta's (ever-maturing) Josh Smith and the Clippers' Chris Kaman (injured-plagued center turned All-Star center).
Yet it came down to these two at crunch time: Houston's Aaron Brooks and the irresistible Wallace, who prevents me from supporting Brooks' bid to become the first Rocket to win some individual hardware since Steve Francis' rookie of the year campaign in 1999-2000.
Lil' Brooks made an undeniable leap into the scoring void created by Yao Ming's season-long absence and the inglorious end to Tracy McGrady's career in Houston. He's the face of a gritty bunch that was never expected to play .500 ball and had to deal with the curveball of losing fellow MIP candidate Carl Landry in the three-way trade headlined by T-Mac and Kevin Martin at the February deadline.
Wallace, however, outimproved Brooks and everyone else. The slender small forward became an elite rebounder (10.2 rpg) with no discernible gain in height or weight. He became a more disciplined defender as the anchor of the league's best team D while shooting a career-best 37.7 percent on 3-pointers. And he became an All-Star because of all that improvement, co-leading the Bobcats to their first playoff berth in franchise history along with hugely impactful November arrival Stephen Jackson and the proddings of coach Larry Brown.
See why we say irresistible?
October prediction: Anthony Morrow
Defensive player of the year: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
There is a movement afoot to downgrade the defensive impact that Howard has because he doesn't always keep his blocked shots inbounds postrejection. The movement seems to be gaining more traction than the push that Howard's own team is making to get us know-it-alls with the ballots to consider Howard more strongly for the MVP trophy.
Let's get real.
The annual line of MVP candidates is out the door, but Howard jumps out when making DPOY assessments. He jumps out even at a time when fans and paid observers of the sport are paying more attention to D and individual defenders than ever before, as evidenced by the growing numbers of DPOY candidates every season.
The reason? It's not just Howard's status as the first player since the league started tracking things like steals and blocked shots in 1973-74 to lead the NBA in boards and swats in back-to-back seasons. It's the fact that almost everyone smarter whom I ask -- coaches, scouts, other players -- reminds me that the Magic would be just an average defensive team without him (as opposed to No. 1 in defensive efficiency) and that no singular force alters the game at the defensive end like Howard.
None of the above, though, stopped me from considering a slew of others here, starting with Charlotte's Gerald Wallace as the anchor/face of the league's second-ranked team in terms of defensive efficiency.
Other defensive stalwarts of note: Atlanta's Josh Smith (smarter and more versatile than ever), Oklahoma City's Thabo Sefolosha (no coincidence that this is the season I finally learned how to spell his last name), Boston's Rajon Rondo (this is the season he supplanted Kevin Garnett as the Celts' foremost defender), Milwaukee's Andrew Bogut (point man for the Bucks' Skiles-inspired improvement on D), Dallas' Shawn Marion (splitting the Mavs' vote with the ageless Jason Kidd), Utah's Andrei Kirilenko (simply reborn), Portland's Marcus Camby (who had to replace Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla in Portland), L.A.'s Ron Artest (quietly more effective on D than he's getting credit for in his Lakers debut), Cleveland's Varejao and that D-Wade fella who does the work of three (or more) players in Miami.
October prediction: Howard
F: LeBron James
F: Kevin Durant
C: Dwight Howard
G: Dwyane Wade
G: Kobe Bryant
F: Dirk Nowitzki
F: Amare Stoudemire
C: Andrew Bogut
G: Steve Nash
G: Deron Williams
F: Carmelo Anthony
F: Pau Gasol
C: Tim Duncan
G: Brandon Roy
G: Joe Johnson
The thinking: The only real issue on the first team was choosing between Wade and Nash for the second guard spot, which would have been even closer if Nash hadn't been plagued by second-half back woes.
The bigger issue this season is making room for all the forwards, which proved so difficult that Chris Bosh -- in spite of his unquestionably elite individual production -- lost his spot as a consequence of Toronto's serious second-half struggles to beat out injury-plagued Chicago for the East's No. 8 seed.
Making room for Bosh would have meant the exclusion of one of the following five players: Stoudemire, Bogut, Duncan, Gasol or Anthony. I couldn't authorize the omission of any of them, despite Bosh's impressive numbers, because of the contributions they all made to winning programs.
The only consolation for Bosh is that he has a lot of company on the list of topflight snubs, which includes Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo in a season with potentially no Boston representatives, Charlotte's hard-to-separate Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, Utah's Carlos Boozer, Memphis' reborn Zach Randolph, San Antonio late-season savior Manu Ginobili, New York stat stuffer David Lee, Dallas' Jason Kidd (who quietly played on Nowitzki's level for much of the season) and New Orleans' Chris Paul, who had too many injuries to claim his usual All-NBA slot.
The other challenge was settling on a second-team center (Bogut won out for his all-around impact in a breakthrough season) and whom to deploy as a third-team center (Duncan got the nod over Gasol because he's forced to play there with the Spurs more than Pau is with the Lakers and more than Duncan wants to admit).
4. Eastern Conference
Some numbers of note in the East this week:
3: LeBron James, at a career-best 8.6 assists per game, is one of just three players in history at 6-foot-8 or taller to average eight dimes for an entire season. The others? Wilt Chamberlain did it once in 1967-68 at 8.6 assists per game and Magic Johnson did it 11 times.
1: Cleveland's loss in Chicago with James resting Thursday night left the Michael Jordan-era Bulls (in 1995-96 and 1996-97) as the only team to post consecutive 65-win seasons. The Cavs needed to win their final four games to match that feat.
8: The Bobcats are the eighth NBA team Larry Brown has coached to a playoff berth, well ahead of his closest pursuers. Bill Fitch, George Karl, Kevin Loughery and Lenny Wilkens have all reached the playoffs with five different teams.
14: John Salmons has led the Bucks in scoring 14 times in his 26 games since arriving in a deadline-day trade. Salmons led Chicago in scoring only once in his final 33 games as a Bull.
14: As a certain Sports Guy made clear, this is pretty much the only nice thing you can say about Rasheed Wallace's debut season in Boston: Sheed will soon make his 14th consecutive trip to the playoffs, tied with Dallas' Jason Kidd for the league's longest such active streak. Next on the list with 10 consecutive playoff appearances: Boston's Michael Finley, Denver's Chauncey Billups, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and San Antonio's Tim Duncan.
5. Western Conference
The torn ligament in his right middle finger that forced Chris Paul to shut it down for the season was quietly sustained in Paul's first game back from knee surgery against Dallas on March 22.
We say quietly because Paul, so desperate to get back on the floor after the knee injury cost him 25 games and New Orleans' shot at the playoffs, kept trying to play through the finger issue until he was finally convinced that risking any further damage (to his hand or his knee) was a pointless risk with the postseason out of reach.
But the most frustrating season of Paul's career -- which began with the firing of close friend Byron Scott and was notable mostly for the Hornets' continued stripping-down of their roster to avoid paying luxury tax -- is poised to end on what looks like an undeniable high.
League sources say that the proposed sale of the Hornets from longtime owner George Shinn to minority owner Gary Chouest should now be regarded as an "inevitability," with an announcement possible as early as next week. And with Chouest in a much stronger financial position than Shinn, there is a buzz building around the franchise already that the necessary money will be spent to rebuild the team around Paul and hire a top-tier coach such as New Orleans native Avery Johnson.
This is bad news for rival teams that have been clinging to the hope that the emergence of Hornets rookie point guard Darren Collison would make it possible to steal Paul in an offseason trade. One source close to the situation told ESPN.com this week that to the contrary, Chouest is adamant about keeping Paul, who has tried in vain all season to convince media skeptics that he wants to stay in New Orleans.
The Hornets have said publicly that they will not address the sale or the future of coach/general manager Jeff Bower after the regular season ends, but two NBA coaching sources said this week that Bower is highly unlikely to continue on the bench and is already bracing for the end of his coaching tenure. But it's believed that Bower -- coming off a strong draft with Collison and second-round gem Marcus Thornton and after swinging the necessary trades to get the Hornets under the $69.9 million luxury-tax threshold -- will have a chance to continue in a front-office role with the team if he loses his coaching post as expected.
As recently as last week, before the prospect of a sale was revealed by the New York Post's Peter Vecsey, it was widely assumed in coaching circles that Bower would return next season as coach because Shinn would never spend the sort of money required to get into the bidding for ESPN's Johnson, whose interest in a return to his hometown has been circulating for some time.
Yet Shinn -- now in remission after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in November -- is finally ready to sell after a controversial two-decade run with a franchise that moved away from its fervent followers in Charlotte largely because of the locals' distaste for the owner.
Some numbers of note in the West this week:
.557: That's Warriors coach Don Nelson's lifetime winning percentage after his record-setting 1,333rd regular-season victory Wednesday night at Minnesota. In the four major North American team sports, Don Shula has the highest winning percentage for an all-time wins leader at .678 (328-156). Baseball's Connie Mack has the lowest at .486 (3,731-3,948). Nelson has posted 13 50-win seasons (third-most all time) with Milwaukee, Golden State and Dallas and ranks as one of just two coaches in NBA history (along with Pat Riley) to be named coach of the year three times.
30: The Lakers recently clinched their 30th division title in franchise history, most of any franchise. Boston is second with 28, followed by San Antonio (16) and Milwaukee (13). But L.A. is just 5-9 this season against fellow division leaders after Thursday's loss in Denver.
11: This is the 11th time that the Lakers have been the West's No. 1 seed since the league expanded its postseason field to 16 teams in 1984. L.A. is 10-0 in the first round series as a No. 1 seed.
3: Denver's Carmelo Anthony was involved in the three other 40-point duels. Melo scored 40 points to LeBron James' 43 for Cleveland on Feb. 18, 50 points to Al Harrington's 41 for New York on Nov. 27 and 42 points to O.J. Mayo's 40 for Memphis on Nov. 1.
One source with knowledge of Denver's thinking said that the Nuggets still plan to complete the anticipated signing of D-League center Brian Butch, as reported Sunday, before the end of the regular season.
Butch, who averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds for the Bakersfield Jam, will be signed to a contract that includes a team option for next season and will be eligible to appear in the playoffs for Denver.
6. It's A Rook Race!
Sacramento's Tyreke Evans has been the ROY favorite for most of the season. Can he hold off late pushes by Golden State's Stephen Curry and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings? (See Box 1.)
7. One-On-One To Five
Five questions with Clippers guard Baron Davis:
Q: Safe to say that the transition to this team has been harder than you expected?
A: It's been tough. It's been a tough two years just adjusting, coming from a place where everyone believed in each other and the coach pretty much just gave me the ball and let me create. Coming here was a different situation. The first year was definitely like the biggest adjustment ever. And then this year was me just trying to prove that I could do what I was asked to do.
But the way I'm trying to look at it is that it saved me a good year of wear and tear on my body as far as being the focal point of the offense. Next year I'm just going to come in and prove to everybody that I still got it and that there's still a lot I can do.
Q: Are you hearing people say that you don't still have it?
A: I'm not hearing that. I'm just my biggest critic. Nobody can be more critical of my game than me. After going through the last two years next year it's all on me.
Q: You guys will have a lot of cap space this summer, but what are the realistic chances of the Clippers getting a top free agent?
A: What are our chances? Hopefully it's a good chance. It's going to be tough just because of the history of the franchise and the organization, but I think with the new talent that we have here and the nucleus [Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman and Davis] we can build on it's not a bad four to start with. And I think everybody in the league is aware of that.
Q: I'm sure you have a relationship with guys like LeBron and Wade. How involved will you be in trying to recruit the big free agents?
A: I keep in touch with a lot of these guys, but I kind of stay out of their business. They know where I'm at. But when that time comes, I'm sure they're going to give the Clippers a look. They know they can always use me as a sounding board. Whatever [the conversation] is, I'm definitely going to be biased, but I'm not going to lie to 'em. I'll be honest with all of 'em.
Q: You're still glad you signed here?
A: Absolutely. I'm still glad I came home. Now I'm starting to have a bigger impact in the community, but I think my best is still yet to come [on the court]. Next year's definitely going to be an opportunity for me to establish myself again and be known one as of the elite guards in this league.
8. Marc's Quote
"If I don't get it at whatever the number was when the season started [1,309], but then I did get in because I got to 1,333, shame on them. A few games shouldn't make a difference. If that's the thing that gets you to the Hall of Fame, shame on them."
Warriors coach Don Nelson, when asked before he broke Lenny Wilkens' record for NBA coaching victories (1,332) Wednesday night at Minnesota whether getting to No. 1 would force Basketball Hall of Fame voters to select him.
Nelson is one of just six coaches in league history to crack 1,000 wins and the only one of those six not in the Hall of Fame. Three of the six are active along with Nelson -- Jerry Sloan, Phil Jackson and Larry Brown -- but already have been inducted like Wilkens and Pat Riley.
That's not the way Nelson wants to stand out, but he's always been a coaching maverick before, during and after his stint with Dallas. Along with all those W's and various offensive innovations, Nelson's career has been marked by scorn for his unconventional methods from the establishment and clashes with players, owners and rivals that stand as the presumed root of his four failed bids to reach the Hall after being named a finalist.
Yet it's hard to argue with Nelson's point, even if you're not a fan. When you've won as much as he has and extended your career into a fifth decade, even without a championship as a coach, how is that not Hall-worthy?
(An aside: Good tweet zing about the Hall and its secretive/confounding voting process from Professor Hollinger after victory No. 1,333, when he wrote: "GS beats [Minnesota] to give Don Nelson all-time wins record. Hall of Fame to commemorate event by inducting another high school coach.")
Nelson's justified incredulity and other reflections from a groundbreaking (but polarizing) career can be found in this lengthy interview Nelson granted to ESPN.com earlier this week.
9. Thunderous Approval
While Kevin Durant came up just short on this committee (of one)'s ballot for the MVP award (see Box 1), there's good news for him in Box 3.
10. This Summer's 'Other' Bonanza
By the time you see another Weekend Dime in the fall, we will have witnessed another World Cup, which means more to more basketball players than you think.
So it's with the likes of Steve Nash, Andrew Bogut, Rodrigue Beaubois, Sasha Vujacic, Peja Stojakovic, Kevin Garnett (I keep telling you KG loves his Chelsea) and others who are always eager to indulge me in a chat about proper football that we honor the other reason June and July are so important (in addition to the NBA Finals and the most anticipated free-agent summer in league history) with this list of NBAers born in countries that will be playing in South Africa.
As of Wednesday morning, 440 players had played in at least one NBA game this season. And all but 39 were born in one of the 32 nations that qualified for the World Cup, as broken down here:Group A
France: six (Alexis Ajinca, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Yakhouba Diawara, Ian Mahimni and Johan Petro)
Mexico: one (Eduardo Najera)
South Africa: one (Steve Nash was indeed born in the host country before moving to Canada)
Argentina: five (Carlos Delfino, Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, Fabricio Oberto and Luis Scola)
South Korea: none
England: three (Kelenna Azubuike, Ben Gordon and Pops Mensah-Bonsu)
Slovenia: five (Primoz Brezec, Goran Dragic, Rasho Nesterovic, Beno Udrih and Sasha Vujacic)
United States: 355 (Too many to list, obviously, but Kobe Bryant and KG are well-chronicled lovers of the Beautiful Game)
Australia: three (David Andersen, Andrew Bogut and Nathan Jawai)
Germany: four (Carlos Boozer, Donte Greene, Dirk Nowitzki and Anthony Randolph and, no, I wasn't aware of the other three besides Dirk until the great Pete Newmann of ESPN's Stats & Information department clued me in)
Serbia: two (Nenad Krstic and Darko Milicic)
Cameroon: one (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute)
Netherlands: two (Francisco Elson and Dan Gadzuric)
Italy: three (Andrea Bargnani, Marco Belinelli and Danilo Gallinari)
New Zealand: one (Sean Marks)
Brazil: three (Leandro Barbosa, Nene and Anderson Varejao)
Ivory Coast: none
North Korea: none
Spain: five (Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Sergio Rodriguez)
Switzerland: one (Thabo Sefolosha)
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