BEIJING -- People are going to think what they're going to think, and Becky Hammon isn't going to worry about it. She long ago gave up on the idea that the average American would understand.
Hammon is the star player for the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars who came here to be an Olympian, only not to play for the USA, but for, of all people, the Russian Federation. Some people aren't happy about that. They see her as a traitor, or something. And many folks think the Americans were a bit rough on her during their 67-52 victory in Thursday's semifinal game. Hammon had come into the game as Russia's leading scorer, but she was held to three points while being subjected to some physical defense.
But she bounced back, as great competitors will, and she now has a measure of satisfaction. She's got a bronze medal, and she knows the Russians couldn't have won it without her 22 points, and especially without her big second quarter during Russia's 94-81 conquest of China on Saturday evening. The Russians and Chinese played evenly in periods one, three and four. The difference was the 28-16 Russian edge in the second quarter, and the player who made that difference was Hammon, who made three three-pointers while picking up a steal and an assist
"It's just relief," she said. "It's nice to win the medal, but that was never why I did it."
She didn't spurn the Americans. They spurned her. She just wasn't in the Olympic mix, but when the Russians asked her if she'd consider playing for them, she said, 'Why not?" She has played professionally in Russia, and they were very happy to arrange the paperwork.
Someone might quarrel with the loose eligibility rules some countries have. Truth be told, I'm one of them. But until the IOC clamps down, people will keep doing it, and so there was nothing illegal about what the Russians and Becky Hammon did. They like her and she likes them and she got to have an Olympic experience. It was as simple as that.
"I've never doubted my decision for a second," she said. "I'm here for the right reasons. To me, it's been an even better experience than I thought. The Village was great and the other girls have treated me so well. I'm anxious to get back home and re-join my team and then I'll be looking forward to returning to Russia."