Bucks Take A Series Lead, Shohei Ohtani & Team USA | Crooked Media
Pod Save America Live NYC & Boston guest hosts just announced! Get Tickets Pod Save America Live NYC & Boston guest hosts just announced! Get Tickets
July 20, 2021
Bucks Take A Series Lead, Shohei Ohtani & Team USA

In This Episode

This week on Takeline, Jason and Renee break down game 5 of the NBA Finals Bucks/Sun series and predict who will be named Finals MVP. Later in the show they discuss the recent comments from Stephen A. Smith on Shohei Ohtani and how the marketing of international athletes in America has changed. Plus, Jason and Renee debate whether or not they believe USA basketball can win gold at the Olympics. Finally, it’s a Takeline crew Take Survivor with new addition, Intern Jeff!

Don’t forget to smash the subscribe button at http://youtube.com/takelineshow for exclusive video clips and to watch ALL CAPS NBA. New episodes every Friday!





Jason Concepcion Why does anybody care what Shohei Ohtani’s marketing, you know, income is? Or if they are, if this guy is hitting the ball like a, like a colossus, which he is, if he’s doing the things that he’s doing on the on the field, it’s unclear to me why exactly that matters.


Renee Montgomery: Ohtani doesn’t need to make sure that we can, like that we are easily digesting what he has to do. He’s going out there and he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to do. He’s being baseball’s most marketable star. He’s knocking balls out of the park left and right. He’s a generational talent and we’re just not used to that.


Renee Montgomery: Game five of the NBA finals is in the books, and Milwaukee has suddenly made what seems like a momentum change in the series against the Suns. Jason Phoenix started out hot, taking a 16 point lead in the first quarter. And then out of nowhere, like a deer that ran across the highway, the Bucks took control of the game and finished with a defensive showcase from Jrue Holiday, which a lot of players in the league obviously know about Jrue Holiday’s capabilities. But now we’re seeing it on the larger scale. How do we feel about this, Jason? What are your thoughts of game five?


Jason Concepcion Well, this is why they got Jrue Holiday. This is why they splashed all the draft picks to get Jrue Holiday. This. That game that you just saw. Jrue has been erratic, I think you could say, like over the postseason. Earlier games, one or two, it’s like where’s the scoring? What are these, some of these decisions that Jrue’s making? But he’s always brought it defensively. He’s just like a physical, he’s incredibly strong and he plays with force. And I think the thing that we’re seeing happen is even when he wasn’t making shots earlier in the series, when he, when he’d get to the rim and Ayton would be there and he’d miss and then the rest of his game wasn’t coming together offensively. He’s defensively, he’s just always there. He’s always in Chris Paul’s space. He’s always in whoever he’s guarding’s space. There’s never a moment where you have a break from Jrue. And now on the offensive end, all those moments when Jrue is ramming his shoulder into a defenders chest and bullying them under the rim are starting to add up. I think it’s, I think it’s telling in Chris Paul’s play, and all of a sudden the offense came together, too. And guess what? The Bucks are in control of the series. I picked the Suns in seven, but I also said I think that the first team to win a road game will win the series. And, so, you know, shouts to the Bucks, on the verge of doing it. What do you think? What do you think swung this series?


Renee Montgomery: You know, there’s a lot of things that I think swung this series, but everyone knows that pivotal game five is a big deal, you know? And I need to state an apology to the Milwaukee Bucks right now just because, like, I honestly, X’s and O’s, and when I breakdown things, I look at, all right, if everyone does exactly what they’re supposed to do or if everyone does their role, how will the game break down—just to give you a thought process? And on paper, if you break down the Phoenix Suns on paper as opposed to the Milwaukee Bucks, on paper, it looks like the Phoenix Suns should be the clear victor in this and go on to win a championship. For a couple of games, it looked like that, but you got to give so much credit to Milwaukee, the coaching staff, the players, because there’s always the what things should look like and what is going to happen. But the players can always change that. You know how somebody plays a monster game. Great defense from Jrue Holiday that now when you expect a certain thing to happen from Chris Paul, well, Jrue Holiday is like, yeah, but wait a minute, I’m a defender. So what do you expected of Chris Paul you might not get and that’s exactly what’s happening in this series. And so it’s just interesting to see because, you know, there’s a lot of talk about Chris Paul in his story. Sixteen years never made it. But there’s other guys. Milwaukee’s like, wait a minute, now, we haven’t gotten a championship either. So this is just, I mean, this was a series that we didn’t expect to be like this, but I’m so thankful. I always want game seven, of seven. Like we always want that as fans and it looks like we might get it.


Jason Concepcion Devin Booker has been unbelievable. He played was 42 minutes in game five, 39 minutes in game four. And they need every single second of those minutes because they’re getting absolutely crushed when he’s not on the floor. And part of that is, you know, Chris Paul. I mean, there’s been some people are wondering about his wrist. He seems to be flexing it at times. I would say this, like six turnovers in game two, four turnovers in game three, five turnovers in game four. That was a game where he scored only ten points. He bounced back offensively in game five, but it still feels like there’s a, there’s just a gear missing. And Booker is is ably shouldering the burden, but they just need they just need something else. Like if Chris Paul is going to play 80% of Chris Paul’s ceiling, they’re just not going to win. And Ayton you know, now all of a sudden that really incredible clip of Monti talking to DeAndre, where he’s like, listen you got to play with force, I need you to, I need you to be a presence—I’m paraphrasing of course but like that really incredible, and it is, it all of a sudden has a lot more meaning because Giannis is devastating them in the paint. Like destroying them. Devastating them and they need DeAndre Ayton, not just defensively where he’s I think made, grown leaps and bounds, not just defensively but all over the court in his career in this postseason. They need him to play with that force that Monty was asking for. They need him to, they need him to get, they need him to draw fouls on Giannis. They need him to draw fouls on Brook Lopez. They need him to be a real difference maker down there. And I just think that, he’s a young player, and I don’t think he’s ready for it. So six free throws in game five in 45 minutes, OK, zero free throws in game four and two free throws in game three. He’s got to draw fouls. He’s got to be like, I’m going to lay it up or I’m going to get fouled. He’s a 70+% free throw shooter, almost 80. And he’s just, he’s got to make an impact there and I think that’s a part of his development that’s just not, just not ready for primetime yet, but they need it. They need it so desperately.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah. You know, like, you know, going, so in game five because you talked about those six free throws in game five—we know that game five winners of a tied series have won the series 21 out of 29 times in the NBA Finals. And when we talk about moving and bending a series, DeAndre Ayton is huge. I remember in, it was either game three or game four, DeAndre Ayton was in a lot of foul trouble, couldn’t play his minutes and that’s when the points in the paint started to pile on and then that’s when Milwaukee saw that they had something there in the paint and then they just started doing it whether DeAndre Ayton was in the game or not. It almost, just decided to start to seem like they recognized that he might not be ready for that level of physicality.


Jason Concepcion Yeah.


Renee Montgomery: Look, the same way we saw Monty Williams talking to DeAndre Ayton, so did the Milwaukee coaching staff. So does the Milwaukee players.


Jason Concepcion That’s a great point.


Renee Montgomery: They see everything that we see, so they see somebody that has to be getting lifted up and picked up by their teammates, which we’ve all seen, not only Monty, but teammates talking to DeAndre Ayton. They put a target on his back and Milwaukee is going at, Giannis is going to the rim as if there’s no one in there and he doesn’t care. No regard for human life under there. And I mean we’re all seeing why. DeAndre Ayton has to figure it out because the more we see people giving him pep talks, and while great the pep talks are, as a competitor, if I see somebody getting all these talks I’m like yo, we got to go at this guy, like he’s not where he is.


Jason Concepcion Let me ask you that because famously several finals ago, the Golden State Warriors got mad at a, at a moment when Steve Kerr was talking to Steph Curry on the bench and then, they that got played up. And now the coaches and the teams, I think, have some ability to veto it, to be like, don’t share that.


Renee Montgomery: Hmm.


Jason Concepcion Do you think retroactively the Suns are like, man, we shouldn’t have shouldn’t have put that one out there.


Renee Montgomery: I think that they know is not the best thing. I mean, like I said, everyone knows in sports, even when it comes to, like, people that are just straight up sports betters, they want to know every single thing that happened that day, did the person makes shots in shootaround. Like it goes down to that extreme in sports where you’re trying to find just a little edge. So if you’re looking for a little edge and you’re re-watching the game and you see, you know, even DeAndre Ayton’s body language as people are talking to him and you just see that his teammates, his coaching staff, they’re trying to lift him up—that’s an edge. And so as a competitor you’re going to be like, huh? Well let’s see if we can test this guy then, let’s test and see is he built for this? And it’s not to say that he is or isn’t. We know he’s young, but if you’re the Bucks, you don’t care how young he is. You’re like, that’s why, he gonna have to grow up today.


Jason Concepcion And, you know, that’s the thing that, when you mentioned, you know, looking at this series on paper and I think you’re exactly right in that, looking at these two teams, it seemed obvious where the weaknesses that the Bucks had could be exploited by the Suns. Right? Backcourt pick and roll coverage. Chris Paul making all the, when he gets the ball, gets a switch or just has his man and can make all the right decisions. Same thing with Booker, the way they can pick apart a defense from the perimeter. With Dario Saric out, all of a sudden, the Suns are very thin in the middle and now all of a sudden there’s that hole to exploit. Here’s Giannis at the rim, last 4 games: 9 of 10, 14 of 15, 9 of 12, 9 of 12. I mean, he is just wrecking, wrecking them.


Renee Montgomery: So Jason, I have a question, though. So why is Giannis’s free throws no longer an issue in your opinion?


Jason Concepcion That’s a great question. I think a part of it is, listen, he missed three down the stretch.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah, and no one is talking about it. No one cares.


Jason Concepcion No one cared. Monty iced him, which I tweeted was like throwing ice on ice because he’s already, he’s already freezing cold. There’s no need to ice him. But I think that it’s a, I think it’s a couple of things. The Bucks have figured out their Kobe-Shaq, you know what I mean? Like, yeah, there have been a ton of comparisons of Giannis to Shaq’s numbers in the way that they both did all their damage downlow and we’re not strong free throw shooters. They’ve kind of figured out how to use Giannis’s impact down low to spray to the corners, to spray to shooters, to open up things for everyone else. And now it’s a smooth transition when it’s Khris Middleton time, like it just, they have that chemistry now and they’re able to go to other ball handlers. You know, they went, one of the great plays, I think, in finals history now is going to be Jrue’s steal, throw it to Giannis for the dun, but they’re getting, you know there’s a school of thought where you can say Oh that was a bad decision, you know because like Giannis going to miss the free throw and what if he didn’t make the dunk, you know Jrue should of kept—but like they’re, they’re making decisions and doing things to mitigate Giannis’s lack of ability to convert on free throws. And the rest of the team is rising to meet him. Middleton is playing well, Jrue’s crushing it. Connaughton is every shot he hits feels like they needed that shot from Pack on in, he’s doing it.


Renee Montgomery: No, you know, I agree. It’s interesting because I think, you know, no one knows their weakness more than the person who has that weakness. So, like, you start to learn to cover it up. The Milwaukee Bucks have been playing with Giannis and knowing that he’s not necessarily an outside shooter for some years now. So they’ve learned how to play with it, what risk to take. I don’t even think it’s a risk to throw up that oop to Giannis. I think that if you don’t throw that to Giannis, you’re crazy.


Jason Concepcion You gotta throw it to him. Yeah.


Renee Montgomery: But they’re making the right basketball plays. Like you could just see now they’re just making the right basketball plays, that with the right play, ended up with a dunk and one. If he did get fouled and missed free throws, at this point, like I said, they’re not, the Suns aren’t necessarily converting on the mistakes. They’re not capitalizing on three missed free throws down the stretch. You have to come down, you have to make sure you score on that. And so having said all of that, finals MVP, I’ve seen so many discussions. Is it Khris Middleton? Who, as we know, has carried the team in a lot of the tough stretches, even Giannis has talked about it out early. Or is it Giannis who’s had those monster 40-point games, maybe not carrying the load down the stretch? Who are you giving it to? Finals MVP.


Jason Concepcion It’s got to be Giannis. Unless Khris Middleton does just absolutely scorches the surface of the earth in the next two games, right? You’ve got the two 40-point games. You’ve got two plays from Giannis that will live forever in finals history. The game changing block on Ayton that was like again, it’s wild to me that this guy’s leg bent 15 degrees the wrong way two weeks ago. You know what I mean?


Renee Montgomery: I’m telling you, modern medicine. That is crazy.


Jason Concepcion It is nuts that that happened. And he’s looked aghast at different times throughout the series, but that he was able to do that two weeks after seeming like maybe his season was on the line, is incredible. And then that, the lob and the alley oop, we’re going to be seeing that forever. It’s just he, it has to be him. What do you think?


Renee Montgomery: So I, I personally think to win finals MVP, if you’re not the superstar of the team, you have to do something extraordinary. Like I don’t know if, I don’t know, if the Milwaukee Bucks would be in the finals without Khris Middleton, because as we know, Giannis got hurt. You said his knee, his knee bent the opposite way. Khris Middleton single handedly carried that team on his back. And on top of that, we’ve seen stretches in this final where he scored ten of the points straight in the fourth quarter that kept them afloat. So, like, are we talking stats? Are we talking? I know that it’s going to have to be Giannis, but it’s so tough because even Giannis himself, you know, down the stretch, your go-to guy is Chris Middleton. We know that.


Jason Concepcion Here’s a crazy stat, Steph Curry, zero finals MVPs. I mean, that, when you talk about political, I you know, Andre Iguodala won the 2015 one and then KD won the other two, which. OK.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah, but you know what? A lot of people, if they ask who was a superstar on that team, that would be a great debate too. Is it Steph or is it KD? I think your answer tells us who maybe fan bases. I’m just like, and look, this is not me saying it, but the finals MVP typically follows a star, you know, of whoever the team is. And I’ve seen stars not necessarily have the most amazing finals, but they’re finals MVP. So . . .  Steph Curry!


Jason Concepcion Iguodala, Listen Iguodala was great. Iguodala, finals MVP as well. I’ll just say I think that we’re seeing in this finals how unprepared kind of like sports media and people who watch sports, how unprepared we are to talk about things that go outside of our experience, you know,  Coach Bud, we killed him his entire career through the Hawks to now, we have killed him. The guy can’t make adjustments. He keeps getting run off the court, yada, yada, yada. We were killing him earlier in the series. We were killing him earlier in the postseason. He’s pushing the buttons right now. And of course, nobody, we’re not really talking about it. There’s a lot of other stuff to talk about, of course. But like we’re not talking about Coach Bud exploiting the Bucks size. We’re not talking about, like, the smart way he’s using the Middleton-Giannis pick and roll all of a sudden. We’re not, we’re not talking about this stuff. And so it’s it’s the same way in that we talk about Giannis and we’re unprepared to talk about a two-time MVP who is not the closer down the stretch. But I think that all of which is to say this is really cool. We’re seeing something that is happening in a way that’s different than the way that we usually see it. And I think that’s really cool.


Renee Montgomery: OK, real quick, though, real quick, though, if the Suns end up winning, who is your, who’s your finals MVP for them?


Jason Concepcion Da Book. It’s got to be Book, he’s been carrying, you know, like Chris Paul is, I think there will be a lot of pressure to have it be Chris Paul.


Renee Montgomery: Yes.


Jason Concepcion There will be. Listen, LeBron James did not show up courtside with an open bottle of tequila to see Devin Booker.


Renee Montgomery: And he let us know. He said, I’m here for Chris Paul, baby. Like, that’s what I’m saying. He let us know.


Jason Concepcion He did not come for DeAndre Ayton. He did not come for Devon Booker. He came for Chris, so to your point about politics, there will be a lot of political pressure to give it to Chris Paul. But I think that it’s I think that it’s at this point it’s Booker. What do you think?


Renee Montgomery: I also agree that, boy, is it going to be hard to pry that finals MVP trophy away from Chris Paul. I mean, the whole storyline has been about Chris Paul getting his first one after 16 years. And that shouldn’t necessarily matter. But I know it does.


[ad break]


Jason Concepcion Last week, some comments about baseball star Shohei Ohtani, who’s just my idol right now, caused a controversy. While on First Take, Stephen A. Smith made the claim that the Japanese-born pitcher and hitter’s use of interpreter hurts his ability to connect to capture an American audience. We should note that he has since apologized for these comments and that he was referring to the marketability and promotion of the sport. But let’s also note that according to Forbes, Othani is, despite Stephen A’s comments, one of baseball’s most marketable stars. He has six million dollars in endorsements here stateside, ten million dollars in Japan and internationally. That is more than Bryce Harper or Chris Bryant. Renee, what do you make of the idea that international players playing in America are not marketable if they can’t speak English?


Renee Montgomery: I think that that’s very old school. I feel like, you know, we think of traditional marketing and I think that’s probably what Stephen A was referring to in a sense of, you know, traditional marketing is I have a product, I hold it here and I say, try Bolt 24, I love the product, it’s great for me.


Jason Concepcion Pitching?


Renee Montgomery: Yeah. And that’s how you get the check and that’s how you continue to sell a product. But as we see with this digital age, there’s so much you can do now. You know, you could do illustration or animation of Ohtani now endorsing a product. You know, like you could have captions on a text of him prom—like there’s so many different ways now to get around a language barrier in this digital age with just the creativity that we do with digital marketing, that I just think that that’s old school to think that you have to be able to articulate verbally that you endorse a product, you know, like I think that that’s old school. And I think Stephen A realized that very quickly when he made his statement. For people that don’t know, he said “when you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube or to the ballpark, I don’t think it helps that the number one face is a dude that needs an interpreter.” Now, you know, like I said, a few hours later too, he tried to verify his comments, saying he was just talking about the marketability and promotion of the sport. We later know he came out with a full-blown apology online, another apology on First Take. But I think that, you know, journalists have to really adjust with the times. The times are changing and the way things are done, process are changing and the journalists got to keep up. What are your thoughts?


Jason Concepcion I think that on for one, I’m glad Stephen made the apology and I’m glad that he clarified that he was talking about marketability and the promotion of the sport. I also think that these kind of conversations about notable people, celebs or anyone speaking English, doing things to, to more, you know, smoothly and efficiently appear to be part of mainstream society, are often like code for something else. I guess like the thing that I thought about was like, why does anybody care what Shohei Ohtani marketing, you know, income is or if they are—if this guy is hitting the ball like a like a colossus, which he is, if he’s doing the things that he’s doing on the field, it’s unclear to me why exactly that matters, except that Stephen A and other people who might complain about this are maybe not so concerned with the health of, and marketability and visibility of America’s pastime, and are more just kind of annoyed that they can’t directly ask Shohei Ohtani a question, or have to go through somebody, or just annoyed in general that someone is here and not speaking English, and succeeding. Like it’s, I always, I remember the first time my parents were like, oh, yeah, we were, when they were growing up in the Philippines, they’re like, yeah, we loved the Beatles. And I was like, wow, that’s so crazy that you grew up in another country and you’re, the music that you were listening to was English music. And it’s the same thing now, like you watched television from Europe, from anywhere, and you will see American hip hop, American music, you’ll see American stars selling stuff. And I think we’ve, I think we’ve just become so used to being the pop culture center of the entire globe, our stars are the world stars, our music is the world’s music, everybody watches our movies—that I think that it’s jarring now when somebody comes from outside that and is not like trying to integrate in the way that we expect. Because we just expect like, oh, our culture goes all around the world and why wouldn’t you learn English? Why wouldn’t you, why wouldn’t you do that stuff? It’s just like a very American-centric perspective that I understand why Stephen feels that way, because it’s you know, that’s the way the world has been for several decades, but it’s just it’s not the way the world is now, to your point. What do you think?


Renee Montgomery: Yeah, and, you know, I think. I think too, we know that certain things transcend cultures. So music, you talked about it, , you can hear a song, I can hear a song from BTS and I can, like, think it’s lit no matter if you know what they’re saying or if you don’t. And it’s the same for our hip hop culture in other countries. They might, they might know a whole rap song and not know any English. I’ve had teammates, so I played overseas for ten years, I’ve had teammates in the locker room, they can rap bar for bar with me on JayZ lyrics, anything, but then afterwards, you know, their English might be a little broken. But, you know, that experience going overseas for me was so vital because there’s obviously the stereotype that Americans are arrogant and different things of that nature. And there’s, we are spoiled to a certain extent.


Jason Concepcion We are spoiled, for sure.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah, and Stephen A is talking about that spoiled American sense that, wait, you’re not Americanizing yourself to fit into our culture to make sure that we can digest you easier? No, that’s not his, that’s not his problem. You know, like Ohtani doesn’t need to make sure that we can, like that we are easily digesting what he has to do. He’s going out there and he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to do. He’s being baseball’s most marketable star. He’s knocking balls out the park left and right. He’s a generational talent, and we’re just not used to that. We’re used to if we want you, you better give us what we want and how we want it. And that’s not happening anymore. We see different stars. Even with Naomi Osaka, I watched her documentary.


Jason Concepcion Yes.


Renee Montgomery: She talked about there was this this uncomfortableness that when people found out she’s playing for the Japanese national team and she was like, it was never I was never deciding between America and Japan. I was always playing for them. But we were all like, she said, basically the media was like, oh, you’re playing for Japan. And she’s like, I’ve played for them always. You know, like and if you watch the documentary is true, she has. But as Americans, again, we’re like, if you had the choice, why would you pick us? And it’s like we maybe aren’t the center point of everyone’s life like we thought we were. And maybe we were, but it’s changing. Things are changing. That’s all I’ll say. Things are changing.


Jason Concepcion I think about the Dream Team documentary and all the famous clips that we remember of Jordan walking down the Champs-Elysees, or Barkley and Magic walking around Barcelona and getting mobbed by international fans. That’s what we think is normal, right? We think that’s normal. Could Michael Jordan speak French? Could Charles Barkley speak Spanish. Right? Or Catalonia or any other? But we are just like, yeah, that’s the way it should be. We export our stars and everybody accepts it and they love it and that’s great. But if you send your stars here, they better learn to speak English or else there’s going to be a problem. And that’s to your point. It’s just not the way the world works anymore. And we are now getting a very, very small taste of what the rest of the world has been experiencing with the exporting of America stars to different markets. It’s just really interesting. And of course, you know, Spanish-speaking players are a huge part of the MLB. This, the comments, Stephen A’s comments, while directed at Shohei and about Shohei clearly pertain to the 25% of opening day rosters in 2019 that speak Spanish as their first language. It’s, it’s just an old, old-minded thinking. It’s not the way media works anymore and not the way fame works anymore, not the way sports works anymore.


Renee Montgomery: And you know what, I hope that this starts to shift another culture that, you know, like again, traveling a lot for basketball, I got submerged into so many different cultures. No matter where I went, almost every single person spoke some English, like I could be in the grocery store and I would be like, cow moo, and then they were like, oh, yeah, OK and they would tell me where the beef is in the grocery store. But like everywhere else in the world, makes an effort. Like just a least a little effort. Everywhere else in the world makes an effort to learn English, baseline broken English a certain amount. But Americans, there’s a lot of us that we don’t know, like not even like: ola, como esta? Like we don’t know, you know what I mean? Like, we can’t count to ten. We can’t do a lot. And I think that says a lot about America.


Jason Concepcion The rise of, it’s only really been in the last several years with the rise of popularity of reggaeton and Bad Bunny blowing.


Renee Montgomery: Reggaeton, baby!


Jason Concepcion And Bad Bunny blowing up. Like going to multiple parties and-or bars and/or places where Bad Bunny is playing, and I know for a fact that many of the people there cannot speak Spanish or understand what Mr. Bunny is saying. But that’s the, Mr. Bunny. It’s only the these last several years where I really felt like, oh, there is a shift, at least to acknowledge the large population of the American citizenry that also speak Spanish. But we’re slowly getting there. Where have you ever felt ,when you were playing overseas, did you ever feel like a pressure to, like, learn Russian, learn anything like that?


Renee Montgomery: Uh, da. Yeah, I did. That’s yes, in Russian. But I didn’t feel a pressure to. I put pressure on myself, like I wanted to know. Like, I’m the type, especially to it’s difficult because being a point guard overseas where your whole job is to communicate and communicate the plays, communicate what’s going on in the game. If I don’t know a certain thing, like, you know, like I had to learn to say, like “Davai Dyetka”, like, let’s go. Like, I had to be able to talk to them in their language for certain sports terms because I need to be able to do that on the fly. I don’t need them to have to be thinking on the fly like, oh, how do I translate that or what does she mean? So I took it upon myself to learn some things. As a lot of people know, my fiancé say, you know, Dominican, she’s from the Dominican Republic, well her parents, her mom is. But she was born in New York. But so that’s a bilingual family. Like they speak straight up Spanish only in the house a lot of time. So I just, I value multiple languages just because if you traveled, if you’ve been around the world, you start to see how small we are as Americans in a sense of there’s other cultures, other worlds out there. And Americans, we kind of like, yeah, yeah, we know it’s out there, but it’s America’s where it’s at, baby! Like we really have that feeling like, yeah, yeah, y’all do your thing, but when you come here, we’re Americans. And it’s like, you know, just I’m blessed to have been cultured at a young age to know that we should be learning, like everyone in America should have a baseline of Spanish. Like, I think that that’s something that we should have. But, you know, now we’re starting to see that shift, it’s going to happen. We’re going to see it more and more. And, you know, like for me, like when it comes to the media, we weren’t doing interviews all the time. Like, you know, here for the NBA, it’s not necessarily right after every game that we’re doing interviews and different things of that nature. But they did make an effort to make sure that when I did do media, I was comfortable. I had an interpreter and the interpreter was working both ways. A lot of times too, the actual interviewer would talk to me in English. So, you know, it might be broken English. It might, you know, but I could still understand enough to answer it. So, again, making the effort to try to talk to me in English because they knew that was my first language. I think that that goes, like that says a lot about them, because I’m talking to a audience that doesn’t speak English. Their first language is Russian, but even still, they’re talk to me in English. And that just shows how other countries are more apt to cater to maybe a different culture. And again, I know America is that culture that the world kind of understands, watches, whether it’s our athletics, our culture, our music. We know that transcends all other countries, but that still doesn’t necessarily give us a pass to not try to, you know, cater or be understanding to other cultures. I think that’s where we kind of drop the ball as Americans. We’re spoiled! That’s it. We’re spoiled.


Renee Montgomery: The men’s USA basketball team has had a bit of a rocky start, losing back-to-back exhibition games to Nigeria and then Australia. Props to those squads.


Jason Concepcion Yeah, props to them.


Renee Montgomery: But they were upset—yeah, props to those squads because people work a lot on these national teams, like this is goals for them. But those were upsets to us nonetheless. Team USA has slightly bounced back after recently defeating Argentina and FIBA top-ranked Spain, which we know is a powerhouse. But Jason, I’m wondering, how much confidence do we have in this Olympic squad? Is gold out of the reach, or is it always Operation Gold business as usual?


Jason Concepcion It’s going to, we’re going to act like it’s business as usual, but these, these results and the closeness of the games versus Argentina versus Spain show you how effectively the rest of the world has caught up. We just had a conversation about Shohei Ohtani and international players. The NBA has been pioneering international players, has had international players for decades now and those players go back to their national teams, they make them stronger, they share the knowledge and experience that they have. A lot of times the coaches of those teams are coaches with NBA experience, and Team USA has a target on their back all the time. And if you want to give them somewhat of a break, the FIBA game is also reffed differently. There are slightly different rules. It takes time to get used to that. And of course, our players have been playing for whatever it is, 14 months, like straight, nonstop. Some of them. So it’s difficult. But all of which is to say, man, I’m a little, I would be worried. You know, like when we called up JaVale McGee, I was like, uh oh.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah.


Jason Concepcion You know, like I love, listen, JaVale, one of the great personalities, obviously comes from a basketball lineage. But that was like, break glass in case of rim protection emergency. You know, they you would not say that Javale is one of America’s elite basketball players. You would not say that.


Renee Montgomery: No. I mean, look, that, this is just the facts. If you were naming your top post players in the from the United States of America, JaVale McGee would not be in your top five. You know, he might not be in your top ten, but he’s on our Team USA squad. So having said that, you know, this brings up, I’m glad you said, you know, they’ve been playing for 14 months straight because this brings up a very interesting topic to me. When it comes to women’s basketball, I just alluded to it about how I go overseas every year and people might be wondering, well, how do you do that? I thought you played in the WNBA. I do. And so with women’s basketball, we play in the summertime we play in the WNBA, then we usually have a two week break, and usually it’s two weeks max, and you go play in a whole nother season in a whole nother country and you start a brand new six-month season. Then you have two weeks and you go back to the WNBA. So it’s very interesting to me to hear people talk about now with the NBA and the men’s players because, yeah, that was a short break because everyone knows the bubble season, got the timing off and then they had to start the NBA season pretty quickly. Why is no one talking about this on the women’s side?


Jason Concepcion That’s a great point.


Renee Montgomery: You know, the women, even when it comes to the WNBA, even when it comes to the WNBA, we play year round, for ten years straight—I want people to understand this—for ten years straight. I played in the WNBA in the summer then I went directly overseas and played and rinsed and repeated for ten years straight. At ten years I was like, whoo, I’m tired, my body is tired, I’m going to stop going overseas and I’m only going to play the WNBA. Then I played one more year in the WNBA, and so when WNBA players, like when I retired at the age of 34, like I played double the amount of seasons that people know about. So if I played 11 seasons in the WNBA, I played 22 seasons. And so now the men, they had basically one year of our women’s basketball life, and all we keep hearing about is: what about the guys!? They’re tired. And so I just had to get that off my chest that—.


Jason Concepcion I love it.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah, they probably are tired. I’m sure the women’s players are tired, too, because, you know, there’s not a lot of talk about that. But having said that, not only are the men tired, but we don’t necessarily take our best talent because ii’s the Olympics and maybe, I’m curious on your thoughts, where do the Olympics rank when it comes to NBA players? Because, like, do they care if they get a gold medal if they get that $200 mil—because we’ve seen plenty of times that players are like, look, I’m not playing in the Olympics because I got a big contract coming up, it’s not that serious. Like, you know, like basically—I’m paraphrasing—but it’s not that serious enough for me to get a gold as opposed to lose the honor, I mean, lose a contract. So, you know, what are, what do you think about that whole concept?


Jason Concepcion I think that you make a, you make a good point. Like cost benefit analysis, gold medal is not going to put my kids through college, you know what I mean? Like, if you’re a free agent up for a big contract, if you’re a player who’s looking to take the next step in their career, in terms of developing their game, you’d probably think twice about going. If you’re a player who, you know, has injury concerns as part of, as part of their, you know, career load management, you might think about not going. And then if you’re just like, listen, we came close this year in terms of what we did in the postseason, I want to take that next step, I want to dedicate myself to my game, then you probably wouldn’t go. I mean, listen, it’s an interesting thing, right, because—


Renee Montgomery: Isn’t that’s supposed to be the most prestigious honor to win an Olympic gold?


Jason Concepcion I weirdly feel like at this point, post-Dream Team, right, 30 years after the Dream Team, we weirdly care about the Olympics more if we lose, like as a country. And I’m talking specifically about basketball, if we win, it’s yeah, we’re the best in the world. We have LeBron—LeBron’s not there, but you know we have, KD is there, Lillard is there, Draymond Green is there, Bam Adebayo is there. We have the best players in the w—we used to send our kids and dominate the world. We used to send our college kids, and they would beat the pros. Like so I really think that we, we care when we lose, and we don’t care that much when we win, because when we win it was like, yeah, we’re supposed to win. So it’s this weird, it’s a weird thing,


Renee Montgomery: 100% And, you know, so here’s the thing, like the world is catching up. I don’t know if anyone’s paying attention, but the world is catching up to the United States of America. You can call it complacency. You can just call it leveling the playing field. That’s how things happen. But to your point, Jason, yeah, we could have sent our A, B and C squad and we would have came back with gold, silver and bronze. Like we we could have done that before. I mean, even on the women’s side, you know, we’ve talked about that in a sense of Team WNBA just beat Team USA in the WNBA All Star that just happened last week that I just came from. And even having said that, I’m not necessarily too concerned about Team USA because we’ve always thought that we had enough good players that we could send two teams to the Olympics. But now when our Team USAs are getting beat by these other countries, then it starts to make you raise an eyebrow that, yeah, maybe we’re not head and shoulders above like we thought before. Maybe we do need our best guys. I mean, even though when you go down the men’s roster, I’m just looking at the men’s team, Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, whom Pop had to be beg to play is out—


Jason Concepcion On hands, on hands a knees.


Renee Montgomery: Hands and knees! Google it! They had to beg Kevin Durant to play. Jerami Grant, Draymond Green, Jrue Holiday as we see, we talked about, he’s an emerging star in a sense of a lot of people are now seeing what he can do on the big stage. Zach Lavine, Dame Time, Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum—those are all great players. You know, and another thing about the NBA is a lot of the top NBA players are international players now, as we’re seeing, we’re finding that out quickly. But if you look at that list, you’re not going to say that’s our top players in America. You’re just not. Yes, there’s some of them. But are we good enough anymore not to send our top? I think that we kind of on the men’s side—on the women’s side, our top players want to go, people are fighting to go. Everybody wants that honor, that prestige. It’s not a money thing. And again, maybe because the WNBA doesn’t make as much as the NBA. I acknowledge that. But there’s that for the honor that still happens on the women’s side. But on the men’s side, it’s like, oh, yeah, I’ll go get me a gold and I’m done. It’s not like I’m going to give me a gold, I’m going to repeat it. It’s not that kind of vibe on the men’s side. But I’m curious, when it’s going to switch back? Is losing an Olympics, is going to take losing to us to get back Operation Gold? Like, I just don’t know.


Jason Concepcion I think it will take losing. Losing is always a big deal in international basketball for Team USA. Again, much, a much bigger deal than winning—the 1992 Dream Team aside—but even that team was a reaction to the bronze medal in ’88. You know, David Robinson, Dan Marle coached by John Thompson—that, the reason we did away with the, with the rule about sending our college amateurs was because we lost. So all of which is to say, and this is like spin, obviously, I think it’s time to respect the strides that the rest of the globe have has made in this game that Americans invented. I mean, Dr. Naismith was Canadian, but he invented it here in America. And it’s time to appreciate that. You know, like Luka Doncic is a person in our league in the NBA who will win at least an MVP award. And that’s a person that is the latest evolution of international basketball player playing in the NBA. Like the world has gotten a lot better. And more specifically, it used to be that athletically we could just dominate too, right? But the rest of the world, what the rest of the world has done is they’ve developed their skills around the way they play and what they bring to the court. No one would say that Luka Doncic—Luka Doncic is huge, big guy, and very strong—no one would say that he’s blowing you off the court with his athleticism, but it’s the, it’s how he is refined his skills. And the international players have figured out how to make that leap and they are teaching their fellow country people how to do that as well. And the fact that they are appearing in the NBA is in and of itself a testament to how those national programs are evolving and improving. The world is just better now.


Jason Concepcion Wake up America! Wake up!


[ad break]


[Take Survivor game]


Jason Concepcion That is it for us. Follow and subscribe to us on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. And don’t forget to subscribe to Takeline show on YouTube for exclusive video clips from this episode, plus my digital series, All Caps NBA, which airs every Friday. Check it out, folks! See you next week.


Jason Concepcion Let’s go!


Jason Concepcion Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Carleton Gillespie and Zuri Irvin. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Our contributing producers are Caroline Reston, Elijah Cone Jason Gallagher. Engineering, editing and sound design by Sarah Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. And our theme music is produced by Brian Vásquez.