It started well for Spain, as they were extra-passing Team USA to death. Unlike most deaths, this was not so permanent, as Team USA came roaring back thanks to some scalding Carmelo Anthony shooting. By halftime, the Americans were up by eight. By mid-third quarter, the game was over in all but technicality.
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony both went 10-of-15 as the Spanish defense looked helpless to stop the onslaught. Though blessed with size, Spain is lacking on the perimeter, and it showed in this particular exhibition match. Ball-handlers were hounded into turnovers, which led to easy buckets.
None of this surprised me, even if I expected a better effort from the Iberians. I was mostly fixated on how Mike Krzyzewski declined to use Davis in a time of need. Tyson Chandler picked up three fouls in the first half, a situation that begged for Davis' inclusion.
Coach K instead went with Kevin Love, and did not sub Davis in until the last four minutes of garbage time. If Davis can't get burn in an exhibition match where Chandler is forced off the floor, that's an admission that he's in the Christian Laettner role.
This is disappointing and somewhat befuddling. If there is no meaningful scenario in which Anthony Davis can be used, why did he get the 12th roster spot? Is he merely the token college guy?
I do not wish to question Krzyzewski's lineup choices, mainly because I have a rule against questioning those who carry names that I always have to spellcheck. More to the point, he's winning, and has been since 2008. But I do question the roster choice if Davis has no real place on the squad.
In theory, despite his youth, Davis should provide something for this USA team. In the final throes of garbage time, AD had one of his signature teleportation blocks—the kind of play that seemed necessary when Chandler's absence created a void near the rim.
In practice, Coach K loves to go small, preferring to spread the floor when his lineup is pressed. This team is so different from the errant-shooting 2004 squad that it's staggering. Mike D'Antoni's influence is pronounced, and not just because he's an assistant coach for the Americans. The roster reflects how basketball has transitioned toward a "seven seconds or less" reality. The players are faster, more versatile, better at shooting the three.
The league has changed, and so too has its American representation. The result is that Team USA's second big man is getting squeezed out by small ball.
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