Biden will win plaudits for Putin 'showdown,' but nothing will change. Plus: Best NBA team ever?

By Gary Abernathy

Biden-Putin ‘showdown’ is misleading spin

I’ve seen a bunch of headlines describing President Joe Biden’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva as a “showdown.” What?

The Old West gunslinger terminology is, I suppose, intended to suggest that Biden and Putin are at odds with each other — furthering the notion that former President Donald Trump was too cozy with Putin, and that Biden is here to set Putin straight.

Both concepts are a fallacy. Biden will act tougher with Putin in public, but that’s it. He’ll make some noise about how he warned Putin about human rights violations and cyberattacks. But the bottom line is, Russia is going to be Russia. It’s going to continue to try interfere in our elections, as it has done for decades, and it’s going to continue to be an oppressive, domineering presence for its own citizens. It has designs on expanding its global reach, and that won’t end.

So far, early reporting reveals scant attention to the subject of election interference, something that was always front and center when Russia was discussed during Trump’s presidency. Amazing how a different election result changes the subject.

Trump was simply someone who had trouble pretending Russia wasn’t always going to be Russia. Biden will do a better job of “scolding” Putin in public, and he’ll win media plaudits for doing so. “Biden takes tough stand with Putin” will be a popular headline in various iterations, but behind the scenes, not much will change.

Brooklyn Nets latest to be called ‘greatest,’ but they’re not

The latest NBA team to be in the mix as the “greatest basketball team of all time” is the Brooklyn Nets, so suggested by the New York Times recently. It’s star trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, along with talented reserves, certainly makes the Nets powerful, if they stay healthy (which they haven’t lately).

These things are fun to debate, but for me, the greatest team ever is the 1986 Boston Celtics. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge were an offensive juggernaut, and when you have a healthy Bill Walton playing backup center, and potent shooters like Scott Wedman, a former all-star with the Kansas City Kings and Jerry Sichting coming off the bench, that’s a team for the ages. The team won 67 games — impressive, but not the record. However, the Celts could have won more except for resting players the last few games. Even then, they won the Eastern Conference by a full 10 games over second place Milwaukee.

Also in contention for best ever are the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers (68 wins) and the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers (69 wins and a 33-game winning streak), both featuring Wilt Chamberlain. The ‘72 Lakers were really the first “super team,” with Chamberlain joining longtime Lakers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West in 1968-69, via a trade with Philadelphia, in an effort to finally defeat Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics. But the Celtics prevailed in a 7-game Finals, after which Russell retired with 11 championships in a 13-year career, making him the greatest winner in the history of professional team sports. A case can also be made for the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and company, who won 65 games and took out a hobbled Celtics team in six games in the Finals.

Yes, the 2016 Golden State Warriors, at 73-9, and the 1996 Chicago Bulls, at 72-10, both have better records than the teams mentioned above. But the league was weaker overall during those years, and neither team faced a rival worthy of challenging them. The ‘86 Celtics had the Showtime Lakers as a worthy foe, the ‘67 76ers had Russell’s Celtics and the ‘72 Lakers had a number of great opponents, including the Milwaukee Bucks of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson (who had just won the title in 1971 and is an often underrated team, having won 66 games in its title year and going 12-2 in the playoffs) as well as the legendary New York Knicks team that won the crown in 1970 and 1973.

Plus, I’m with Charles Barkley on this one — teams that are basically stacked with superstar free agents chasing a title rather than built through drafts and trades just don’t mean as much.

(An earlier version of this item indicated the New York Times story on the Brooklyn Nets appeared this week. It was actually published on June 2. The wording has been adjusted to reflect that.)

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