Olympic Basketball 2012: Why Strong Showing Against France Is a Must for USA

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2012

Tyson Chandler needs to keep his emotions in check in London.
Tyson Chandler needs to keep his emotions in check in London.David Ramos/Getty Images

When you can list all-time greats like Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and David Robinson among the big men on your roster, there's little worry of opposing teams having much, if any, success down low.

The lane is closed for business.

While the 2012 version of Team USA remains the overwhelming favorites to take home Olympic gold yet again, Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis and Kevin Love don't exactly inspire the same level of confidence that the big men on the original "Dream Team" in 1992 did.

There isn't a team in the Olympic tournament that isn't going to try and relentlessly attack the paint against the Americans—the one vulnerability that can be pointed to on a stacked U.S. team that is full of perennial All-Stars and future Hall of Fame inductees.

Not allowing that vulnerability to be exploited is a must.

While France's trio of big men—Kevin Seraphin, Ali Traore and Ronny Turiaf—don't hold a candle to the talent level of their counterparts on the U.S. squad, it's France's assortment of guards and wings who will be the real aggressors.

Led by All-Star point guard Tony Parker, France is going to try and draw as much contact in the paint as they possibly can, forcing Team USA's big men to the bench and LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony down low on defense.

(Yes, I realize that using the name Carmelo Anthony and the word "defense" in the same sentence made half of you raise your eyebrows as you said, "'Melo plays defense? Really?")

Chandler and company not only have to be on their toes when it comes to defending the basket, being careful not to get drawn into contact, but James and the rest of the wings need to clog the passing lanes out of the paint.

Getting out in transition on offense not only leads to open looks and easy baskets, but it lands a deflating blow to the opposition—especially when it's the same result possession after possession.

That's the message that Team USA needs to send on Sunday against France: that it doesn't matter what you do against them on offense—they are up for the challenge. That the big men on the roster are more than up for the challenge of playing fundamentally sound defense while avoiding contact. That you can throw everything you've got at them, including the kitchen sink, and it won't force them to flinch.

If Parker is allowed to drive the lane and kick it out to his wings with little trouble, not only will France pose a bigger threat than many originally thought, but it will give hope to the rest of the field that it's a sound strategy and a recipe for defeating Team USA—even if France ultimately loses the game.

Defeating Team USA. That's a thought that never crossed anyone's mind 20 years ago.

So, while Kobe Bryant has backtracked from his original comments that the current national team is superior to the greatest team ever assembled, we've yet to hear the same from LeBron James.

Team USA's performance in London isn't only about gold, it's also about ego and pride.

While it's good to be kings of the court, the rest of the world is trying to force you to abdicate the throne, to give up the title of "best the world has ever seen."

Even your fellow countrymen.