The NBA team with the greatest offense in the history of the game is not the Warriors when they had Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. It’s not the Rockets teams built around James Harden and math. It’s not Magic Johnson’s Lakers or Larry Bird’s Celtics, and it’s not a team with Michael Jordan or LeBron James.
The team with the most powerful offensive machine the league has ever seen is this year’s Dallas Mavericks. They don’t have Steph, Michael or LeBron. They have Luka.
Luka Doncic is already one of the best players on the planet, and the only thing more impressive than his 28.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game is his age: He is 20 years old. There has never been anyone so young with such outrageous numbers. The last time a player had comparable statistics was Oscar Robertson—before Doncic’s parents were born.
It has been a stunning ascent by any measure for someone in his second NBA season. But it’s not surprising to the handful of Americans who knew the name of Luka Doncic before almost everyone in the U.S. They had to. They were his teammates.
The former college and NBA players who moved to Spain to play for Real Madrid between 2015 and 2018 had the odd feeling of sensing that something was about to happen years before it really did. They were among the first people to look at a shy teen with a baby face and see the future of basketball. But when they told people back home about Doncic, every one of them encountered resistance. They had to convince the Americans in their lives that a Slovenian teen was as sensational as they claimed.
“They were skeptical,” said Jaycee Carroll.
“None of my friends in the States believed me,” said Trey Thompkins.
“Of course the first response was: Aw, no European can be that good,” said Anthony Randolph.
The first time that Randolph realized that his precocious teammate really was that good was in a practice scrimmage a few years ago. It was hard for him to ignore the kid who was attempting to throw down a tomahawk dunk on him. Randolph looked around in disbelief. Who is this guy, he asked, and how old is he? That’s when he found out Doncic was only 17.
“He told me his age,” Randolph said. “I was in shock.”
Anthony Randolph is no longer in the NBA. But in that way the NBA has become a league full of Anthony Randolphs.
There was nothing that Doncic hadn’t accomplished by the time he came to the U.S. He won the EuroLeague with Real Madrid. He won EuroBasket with Slovenia. He won the MVP of the EuroLeague and he even won the MVP of the EuroLeague Final Four—which means he was the best player in the biggest games in the top league outside the NBA.
But he was still the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft. The Suns passed on him after hiring Slovenia’s national coach, the Kings passed on him despite having a European general manager and the Hawks passed on him by trading back and drafting another point guard. His fans in Europe couldn’t wrap their minds around these decisions. They had never seen anyone at that age better than Doncic.
“No one else comes close,” said Dan Peterson, a legendary American coach who has worked in Italy since the 1970s. “Everyone knew. Everyone in Europe, that is. If the NBA had doubts, that’s their problem.”
The question of how so many people could have been so wrong about Doncic will haunt the franchises that passed on him for a very long time.
It’s tempting to blame the behavior of NBA snobs on a distrust of international basketball even at a time when the game has never been so cosmopolitan. The U.S. no longer has a monopoly on talent.
- The league’s Most Valuable Player is Greek.
- The centers on last year’s All-NBA teams were Serbian, Cameroonian and French.
- The face of the Mavericks used to be Dirk Nowitzki (German), and
- now it’s Doncic (Slovenian) and
- Kristaps Porzingis (Latvian).
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has another theory.
“The NBA doubts every player coming in until they prove they can play,” he said.
Some of the only people who weren’t saddled by this bias happened to be the ones who had watched him play basketball more than anybody in the world. They were Americans in Europe who remember telling anyone who would listen that he was the real deal. They also remember what they heard in response. That he would be good, but not that good. That he’ll play against bigger, stronger and faster guys and he wasn’t big, strong or fast enough. That he’s not athletic. That he’s not in shape. That he’s too… Slovenian.
“Wait and see—just watch,” Randolph said. “Because I knew that Luka was a once-in-a-generation talent.”
“You’ll see,” Thompkins said. “You’ll see.”
“He did everything in Europe already,” Marcus Slaughter said. “It’s just that Americans now see it.”
They saw it for themselves on the practice court. In the European system of basketball, Real Madrid’s players mingled with the players on Real Madrid’s youth team, which would be like Bronny James practicing with LeBron James. But when the stars of Spain’s best team studied the younger guys coming for their jobs, there was always one who stood out. Doncic was 15 and making players his own age look like toddlers. “What he’s doing now is what he was doing at that age,” Slaughter said. “He was completely dominating.”
But he was also holding his own on the senior Real Madrid team. His teammates noticed a complete lack of fear in someone who could have easily been terrified. When the Boston Celtics visited Spain in 2015, for example, Doncic played 16 minutes off the bench. He was 16 years old.
- By the time he was 17, he was the best young player in Europe.
- By the time he was 18, he was the best player in Europe.
“This guy is a cross between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird,” thought Bill Duffy, his agent, as he watched him.
But his last few months in Madrid were a bit of a Rorschach test. Cuban and Mavericks executives were among the people who saw a team of grown men deferring to Doncic with games on the line, but others saw a pudgy body and signs of inconsistency as Doncic fell into a slump toward the end of a long season.
His teammates knew which ones would be proven right.
A look at the tragic consequences of underestimating the enemy. During the Second World War, the British commander of Singapore believed it to be an impregnable fortress until a numerically inferior Japanese Army overran it. Similarly, 12 years on, the French lost the mountain garrison at Dien Bien Phu after failing to anticipate the resourcefulness of General Giap and his Vietmanese peasant army.
We have long saluted military genius and bravery. But the other side of the coin is military incompetence – a largely preventable, tragically expensive, yet totally absorbing aspect of human behaviour.
From the Crusades to Vietnam, history is littered with examples of stupidity, obduracy, brutality and sheer breath-taking incompetence. Lack of communication, technological failure and a misplaced sense of superiority have led to the deaths of thousands of ordinary soldiers, let down by their masters and betrayed by arrogance. Using a combination of history, human interest and archive footage underpinned by powerful story-telling, Great Military Blunders charts man’s folly and cruelty in a series of stunning debacles, spanning almost a thousand years of conflict.
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Although it was a high-tech conflict with newly lethal weapons, he writes, it still followed patterns established over millennia: “British, American, Italian, and German soldiers often found themselves fortifying or destroying the Mediterranean stonework of the Romans, Byzantines, Franks, Venetians, and Ottomans.” In many instances, military planners on both sides ignored the lessons of the past. Some lessons were local: it’s always been hard to “campaign northward up the narrow backbone of the Italian peninsula,” for example, which is exactly what the Allies struggled to do.
.. History shows that the only way to win a total war is to occupy your enemy’s capital with infantrymen, with whom you can force regime change. Hitler should have paused to ask how, with such a weak navy, he planned to cross the oceans and sack London and, later,Washington. At a fundamental level, it was a mistake for him to attack countries whose capitals he had no way to reach.
.. Before the war, the United States produced a little more than half of the world’s oil; Axis leaders should have known this would be a decisive factor in a mechanized conflict involving tanks, planes, and other vehicles. (The Nazis may have underestimated the importance of fuel because—even though they planned to quickly conquer vast amounts of territory through blitzkrieg—many of their supply lines remained dependent upon horses for the duration of the war.)
.. Axis leaders believed that Fascism could make up the difference by producing more fanatical soldiers with more “élan.”
For a brief time at the beginning of the war, Allied countries believed this, too. (There was widespread fear, especially, of Japanese soldiers.) They soon realized that defending one’s homeland against invaders turns pretty much everyone into a fanatic.
.. the Allies had bigger, faster factories and could produce more guns and shells. “The most significant statistic of the war is the ten-to-one advantage in aggregate artillery production (in total over a million large guns) enjoyed by the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the United States over the three Axis powers.”
Russia, meanwhile, excelled at manufacturing cheap, easily serviceable, and quickly manufactured tanks, which, by the end of the war, were better than the tanks the Nazis fielded.
.. had Hitler chosen not to invade Russia, or not to declare war on the United States, he might have kept his Continental gains.
.. But temperance and Fascism do not mix, and the outsized ambitions of the Axis powers put them on a collision course with the massive geographical, managerial, and logistical advantages possessed by the Allies
.. The Axis powers fell prey to their own mythmaking: they were adept at creating narratives that made exceedingly unlikely victories seem not just plausible but inevitable. When the Allies perceived just how far Fascist fantasy diverged from reality, they concluded that Axis leaders had brainwashed their citizens and themselves.
.. The Axis countries lived in a fantasy world—they believed their own propaganda, which argued that, for reasons of race and ideology, they were unbeatable. The Allies, meanwhile, underestimated their own economic might in the wake of the Great Depression. They allowed themselves to be intimidated by Fascist rhetoric; justifiably horrified by the First World War, they wanted to give pacifism a chance, and so refrained from the flag-waving displays of aggression that might have revealed their true strength, while hoping, despite his proclamations to the contrary, that Hitler might be satisfied with smaller, regional conquests.
“Most wars since antiquity can be defined as the result of such flawed prewar assessments of relative military and economic strength as well as strategic objectives,”
May had a “very simple message” for the Kremlin. “We know what you were doing and you will not succeed,” she said, “because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us.”
Trump’s message to the Kremlin is simple, too: Do what you want.
.. He believes President Vladimir Putin is “sincere” in denying Russian attempts to meddle in the American elections ..
.. Far from denouncing Putin’s continuous assaults on human rights and free speech in Russia, Trump has praised him as being a better leader than Obama.
.. Contrast Trump’s behavior not just with May’s, but also that of Ronald Reagan, who was viscerally opposed to Communism and entered office determined to bring down the Soviet empire.
.. In February, when Bill O’Reilly pointed out to Trump that Putin is “a killer,” the president replied: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”
But most of the lawmakers weren’t around for the last tax overhaul, in 1986, and many longtime tax aides say they are seriously underestimating the degree of difficulty that comes with uprooting hundreds of provisions. Many predict they will have no easier time undoing loopholes that have been in the code for decades than they’ve had rolling back Obamacare.
“Oh my Lord, people come out of the woodwork,” said Dean Zerbe, a former congressional tax aide.
.. Still, even though they’re caricatured as special-interest breaks, many of the narrow provisions are for average people doing mostly average things.
.. One problem for tax reformers is that many of the biggest provisions that would go furthest towards financing a tax-code rewrite — like the deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions — have become all-but-untouchable.
.. On the other hand, it’s also tough for lawmakers to go after smaller ones, especially those benefiting politically popular groups, because they promise difficult fights over relatively little money. Section 107, for instance, excuses a “minister of the gospel” from paying taxes on the share of her income deemed to be a housing allowance.
.. So one trick for Republicans will be knowing which provisions are big enough to fight over, when it comes to raising cash, but not so large that they cannot be undone.
.. many predict Republicans will be forced to settle for something more narrow, like a tax cut that’s partially paid for, in order to reduce the number of losers to a more doable level.
There’s nothing wrong with a newly elected president trying to translate his mandate into legislation or otherwise spending his political capital when it’s at its highest. Nevertheless, there is an unpleasant cult of action implicit in the First 100 Days that I’ve never liked. After all, that was why FDR proposed it in the first place. He wanted to tell everyone to back off and let him have a free hand in his “bold, persistent experimentation.” That’s not really how our system is supposed to work. Presidents shouldn’t be able to say, “Hold my beer while I fundamentally transform America on my own.”
.. What’s interesting to me is that I don’t think Trump truly realized it was going to be like this until pretty late in the game. He said in a Reuters interview just yesterday that he was surprised by how hard the job was. “I thought it would be easier,” the president said.
.. But Trump also says that he thought his old job would be harder than being the president of the United States. And I believe him. There are a lot of stories around Washington that jibe with this. Trump wanted to be something of a ceremonial figure, a bit like a British monarch in the 19th century, who gives some direction to the prime minister, but otherwise serves as an emblem of national greatness. It turns out that there’s more to the job than going around giving MAGA speeches and riffing on the media.
.. I’ve written a lot of late about how we now know Trump has no coherent ideological program. “Trumpism” is a psychological orientation, not a political philosophy. It’s actually far more similar to FDRism than a lot of people realize.
.. For instance, as Amity Shlaes reminds us, Franklin Roosevelt personally set the price of gold every morning: “One day [Treasury Secretary Henry] Morgenthau asked FDR why the president had chosen to drive up the price of gold by 21 cents. The president cavalierly said he’d done that because 21 was seven times three, and three was a lucky number.”
.. Now, FDR did have a philosophy but not a very deep one. As Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, Roosevelt had a “second-class intellect but a first-rate temperament.”
.. In short, he’s doing better than I thought he would. But this is a remarkably low bar. It’s not quite like saying that Greta is the “sexiest East German weightlifter alive” or “this is the most exciting show on C-SPAN” but it’s not that far off.
.. What vexes me about the First 100 Days, however, isn’t what it has revealed about Trump, but what it reveals about his biggest fans. This time last year, it was easy to find people who parroted — sincerely — Trump’s claim that fixing everything would be “easy.” They loved to hear him say that everyone in Washington was dumb and that he had the “best brain.”
.. Any time he did or said something ridiculous, Trump’s defenders would either defend it on the non-existent merits or explain that his critics didn’t see the genius behind his strategy. Or they would mock the notion that anyone would take what he says “literally” when all enlightened people merely take him “seriously.”
.. But now Trump’s biggest boosters — and much of his base according to polls — insists that they never thought it would be easy, that Trump is doing great, even though he hasn’t been remotely able to accomplish the things he wanted to in his First 100 Days, and even Trump admits that this is all so much harder than even he thought it would be. As an unnamed White House staffer told Politico, “I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here. But this sh** is hard.”
.. the signature image of the Trump presidency so far is a goalpost on wheels.
.. But if your yardstick for a Republican president — not candidate, but president — is now “He’s better than Hillary,” then you’ve filed down the yardstick to a couple inches. “Better than Hillary” strikes me as the minimum requirement for a conservative president, not an omnibus justification for anything he does.
.. As Richard Neustadt argued a half century ago, the chief power of the president is persuasion. Lasting conservative victories can come through legislation, to be sure. But even greater ones come from changing public attitudes so that voters want to see those victories endure.
FDR’s New Deal was a very mixed bag, at best. But the main reason so much of it remains intact, alas, is that he fundamentally changed American attitudes toward government.
.. Barack Obama famously wanted to be a liberal Reagan or FDR, fundamentally transforming political orientations in this country. The ultimate verdict on that isn’t in yet, but right now it looks like Obama failed fairly spectacularly. It’s early yet, but how is Trump doing in this regard? Who outside his “base” has been convinced of the rightness of conservative policies? Consider that support for Obamacare, free trade, and immigration are at all-time highs.
I Think He Missed a Memo
Are you noticing a pattern in President Trump’s statements?
“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview Thursday. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
When discussing health care in February: “Very complicated issue…. I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
After the House GOP canceled the vote on the American Health Care Act: “We learned a lot about the vote-getting process. We learned a lot about some very arcane rules in obviously both the Senate and in the House.”
Discussing North Korea with Chinese president Xi Jinping:
Mr. Trump said he told his Chinese counterpart he believed Beijing could easily take care of the North Korea threat. Mr. Xi then explained the history of China and Korea, Mr. Trump said.
“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” Mr. Trump recounted. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over North Korea], but it’s not what you would think.”
Earlier this week, discussing NATO:
“I was on Wolf Blitzer, very fair interview, the first time I was ever asked about NATO, because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right? So they asked me, Wolf … asked me about NATO, and I said two things. NATO’s obsolete — not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO — NATO is obsolete, and I said, “And the reason it’s obsolete is because of the fact they don’t focus on terrorism.”
If only someone had told him!
Do You Care about President Obama’s Speaking Fees?
Should conservatives care that former president Barack Obama is scheduled to be paid $400,000 check from Wall Street when he delivers a speech in September at a health-care conference run by Cantor Fitzgerald, a trading and investment firm?
.. Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times, lays out why so many Democrats are cringing at the early omens of Obama’s post-presidential life:
The habitual kowtowing of senior Democrats to the billionaire class has left their party close to morally bankrupt. Bernie Sanders was right to hammer Hillary during the primaries for her speaking fees from Wall Street. Even her most ardent supporters found these speaking fees indefensible. They were certain to be fodder for her opponents.
It was misguided of Obama to have signed on with the same D.C. speakers’ bureau as the Clintons, the Harry Walker Agency. For sure, it’s easy money. This giant of the speaking circuit has enriched the Clintons to the tune of $158 milion. During her campaign, Hillary explained that she took all that money because “it was what they offered”.
But do the Obamas really need the effortless lucre? One of the most attractive things about having Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House was the absence of ethical conflicts. They seemed to have impeccable moral judgment and real family values. And, thanks to a $65 million book deal with Penguin Random House, and a pot of money from the former president’s previous books, they are not in bad shape financially.
.. The two hallmarks of almost every major figure in the Democratic party over the past quarter century are 1) being much wealthier than the average American and 2) denouncing the greed of “the rich” and “corporate America” as the root of all of the country’s problems.