Olympics 2012: Team USA vs. Great Britain

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterJuly 18, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Dan Clark (L) and Luol Deng of the Standard Life Great Britain Men's Basketball team learn the skills of DJ'ing during a players day at Unity Radio HQ, on July 16, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas /Getty Images for Standard Life)
Paul Thomas/Getty Images

You know what's better than all the Linsanity and Dwight Howard misdirection? Actual basketball, that's what!

The Olympics are getting underway, and you're blessed with the option of watching something better than an All-Star game quite regularly throughout the summer.

While I cannot speak to whether the 2012 Team USA squad could beat the original Dream Team, I can speak to watching and enjoying the current version.

That the modern squad is so thin up front makes it almost more enjoyable to watch. Balky, boring Dwight Howard touches have given way to more threes and fast breaks. The team is hurt by missing Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh and Andrew Bynum, but the viewing experience is probably better.

The next challenge might not be one, as Great Britain has a FIBA ranking of 43rd. Game time is July 19th at 7:10 p.m. BST on ESPN 2.

Still, any team with an NBA player needs to be taken seriously, especially an NBA player as versatile as Luol Deng. Deng will attempt the impossible task of plugging every hole on the Great Britain roster.

His countrymen Ben Gordon and Byron Mullens did him no favors by opting out of the 2012 Games. The Brits are down two players simply because those athletes elected to enjoy their vacations.

There is one former NBA player who could be primed for a big game.


I don't expect the 28-year-old Pops to do much offensively, but he can perhaps nab boards against Team USA's small-ball attack. 

Great Britain also has another frontcourt player with an NBA connection in Joel Freelan, who was drafted by the Blazers in 2006. Portland never sought to bring the kid over despite his impressive rebounding and scoring numbers.

He's 25 now and scores efficiently because he doesn't do too much. Not doing too much has prevented an NBA debut, but you'll rarely see Joel hurt his team. Great Britain will need a huge effort out of the 6'11" rebounding machine to even try keeping pace.

Completing the stacked (relatively, for Great Britain) frontcourt is Deng at small forward. The seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft after a short but successful stint at Duke, he is an ace defender and plus offensive player.

The South Sudanese-born Deng can knock down open shots better than he can create such opportunities. If nothing else, this serves as a chance for Luol to test a game that isn't so dependent on others.

For Great Britain to compete, Deng must play like the guy the Chicago Bulls brass has been hoping for year after year. In other words, he must play beyond his 2012 NBA All-Star level. 

There have been moments of Deng creativity, but he tends to let others control the action. This could be the game where we see a whole other side of Luol. Or, he could look like Al Horford, anchored to the floor by incompetent teammates. 

From the USA perspective, it should not, under any circumstances, lose this game.

That is not to say that a loss is impossible. I could envision one scenario in particular, based on how the last contest against Brazil went. Keep in mind, this scenario would be predicated on Deng hitting about seven three-pointers.

Never mind, I just crunched the numbers, and it's actually nine hypothetical triples. 

Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant can be dangerous to or for Team USA, especially when they are shooting without conscience. In the Brazil game, neither player was adjusting to the lesser competition; Kobe and 'Melo were slinging contested jumpers as though playing NBA defenses and playing with inferior teammates.

Perhaps this is the game where both guys hit a bunch of these difficult shots. In fact, such an outcome is probable.

This could also be the game where the misses pile up and a vastly inferior opponent stumbles into some good luck. I wouldn't bet on it, but, to paraphrase Dumb and Dumber, "There's a chance!"