USA vs. Brazil: How Team USA Can Still Improve
Team USA basketball is obviously loaded. They're the favorites to win Gold in London, and rightfully so. There aren't any weaknesses that immediately jump out at you when examining Coach K's squad. However, it definitely isn't a given that this team will capture Gold, and they still have more to work on as the Olympic Games approach.
The team may be excellent from an all-around standpoint, but there are some holes that could potentially be exploited by the better international teams, like Spain and Argentina. The game against Brazil will help to solidify how evident these holes in team USA actually are.
So, here is how Team USA can improve, against Brazil and overall in the coming weeks.
1. Figure out the Front Court
Team USA definitely has excellent big men, make no mistake about it. Tyson Chandler is a terrific defensive player and will be great in London. Anthony Davis, while young, is a great athletic talent and should do just fine as well. In addition, Kevin Love is there to step in if either guy gets into foul trouble or is injured.
So, why is this a potential weak spot that needs to be improved? It's because these guys wouldn't even have made the team if there weren't injuries to Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. They are secondary options.
Yes, Chandler and Davis are good, and Love can certainly play, but they'll need to be properly utilized by Team USA. Chandler is anemic on the offensive end, and Davis is unproven at this level, although he's certainly a capable player. And Love, who is a solid player, isn't really capable of being a pure center, so he's less usable in the games if one of them goes down.
Against Brazil, Coach K should, in the second half, simulate a scenario in which Davis, Chandler, or both get into foul trouble and see how he can move the lineup around in order to accommodate it. Better to practice it now than be in London and not be sure what lineup works the best without one or both of your best big men, right?
2. Make Sure Everyone Checks Their Egos at the Door
This, while trivial, could be the most important thing for Team USA to keep in mind and improve upon as the Olympics draw near. With so many quality scorers like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant on this team, everyone has to be sure to work together and not try and do too much. Basically, no one can be a ball hog.
Now, it's unlikely to happen, but maybe Kobe will start to want to challenge the assertion that he's getting older, and isn't what he once was, and show the young guys he can still play at the international level on the world scene. Just as he did in accepting Kyrie Irving's challenge for 1-on-1, Kobe feels like he has something to prove at this stage of his career.
The worst thing that can happen is if Kobe decides he needs to outscore Lebron and Durant and takes way too many shots. This is a sure-fire way to allow lesser teams to hang around against them, and could potentially cause them to be upset. Coach K needs to be sure everyone's egos are at the door, and that needs to start tonight against Brazil.
If anyone gets out of line and wants to be the star, Coach K must tell them to chill and be a team player. If there are problems now, there will be problems in London, so better to get them ironed out tonight.
3. Not Try and out-Do the Dream Team
This one goes hand-in-hand with checking their egos at the door. This 2012 version of Team USA can't try and out-do the Dream Team, it would be a fatal mistake. Kobe recently stated that this team would be able to defeat the dream team, an assertion to which Michael Jordan reportedly "absolutely laughed" (via Huffington Post).
This team has to understand that they aren't as good as the Dream Team, and need to just get that idea out of their minds. If they try too hard to constantly score and are forcing up shots, it weakens their game and gives their opponents opportunities that they shouldn't have in the first place.
As long as Team USA plays fundamental, solid basketball, they should win Gold. If they get off their game and are throwing up shots at will, they're vulnerable to defeat. Let's hope it's a case of the former rather than the latter.
That is what they'll need to do against Brazil and every other exhibition from here on out. Get used to playing smart basketball, and Gold will be as good as theirs.
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