AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko via ESPN.com
I DVR'd USA Basketball's game against Australia today, after dumping all my Battlestar Galactica and John Adams recordings. Damn...what a mistake! ESPN's Chris Sheridan sounds the five alarm bell with his take on today's game won by USA 87-76, without the Aussie's best player in Andrew Bogut, but I'm not getting my undies in a bundle...yet. Still, we've seen this before, despite all the hype from Coach K about the USA team checking their egos at the door. Flashback to 2004, where Larry Brown wanted to send Starbury home (a foreboding vision of his Knicks experience), and dreams of gold were shattered by individual, selfish play in a bronze medal effort.
What are the tell tale signs of trouble, you ask?
1) No ball movement. According to Jason Kidd, the rock in today's game was "sticky", even with three great point guards available in Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The biggest offender was Carmelo Anthony, who continues to be one of the more overrated players in basketball today. The international game is more team and pass oriented; while the USA team is by far the most talented and athletic, a unified, well coached team has proven to give them headaches throughout this decade.
2) Poor three point shooting. Michael Redd and Kobe Bryant were supposed to fix this, but Redd only played a little over eight minutes. For the game, USA shot only 16.7 percent from the three point arc. If no one can hit from outside, teams will pack it down low; given the fact that the Redeem Team is a tad undersized in the front court, that could spell trouble for the club.
3) Trapezodially challenged. We've heard this for years, but USA ballers still can't get over the expanding low block, somewhat like the late Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking ruminating over our expanding universe. I can only imagine what Al Jefferson would have to do to adjust to one of his jump hooks turning into a mid-range hoist from the baseline.
I did say I wasn't a bundle of concern yet...correct? One break the US gets is they may not even have to play Argentina unless they also advance to the medal rounds. Spain--with the Gasols and some other talented NBA ballers--looks to be the major obstacle in Group B play. Another advantage is the USA have a bunch of guys who clearly can play defense when they want...IF they want. Since talent isn't the only consideration anymore, it will come down the cohesiveness the team can display, especially in the "one and done" medal rounds (in terms of competing for gold). I expect once they actually get to Beijing, not even the particulate matter in the smog will dampen their enthusiasm for playing in the Olympic rarified air .
It is good they're playing indoors, though. Leave the burning lungs to the outdoor track and field folks.