USA Basketball Preview: A Team Built Right
Watching the HBO Miniseries "John Adams" has put me in a bit of a patriotic mood—so what better way to carry it out than a piece on the USA Basketball team's quest to return to glory in the Beijing Olympics?
USA Basketball has received justified criticism for their construction of the past couple of teams, which flopped badly in 2002 and earned the bronze medal in Athens in 2004. Even I am not so sure that Larry Brown was the best choice to lead the most recent edition of the team.
There are a couple of reasons as to why the US has not fared well, and are experiencing a gold medal drought:
First of all, there has been a cavalier sense that just showing up would merit the gold medal. The reality is that the USA does not carry the intimidation factor it once did when the original Dream Team in 1992 made their journey to Barcelona and dropped jaws around the world.
Secondly, the playing field is much more level these days because of the number of quality international players that have infiltrated the NBA. Names like Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, and Luol Deng have become a part of common NBA language.
The familiarity of these superstars have become a big factor in assuring their fellow countrymen that the Americans have holes in their game, like any other basketball players.
Now, credit must be given to Jerry Colangelo for doing his due diligence in putting together a team that will give the US their best shot at winning the gold medal. With that said, here is the likely lineup of players that will represent the Red, White, and Blue in Beijing:
He will never be the poster-boy given his most recent troubles, but the guy can flat out play. He won't be asked to carry the team, but he is a very potent scoring option.
A bruising low-post presence who never got much playing time in Athens, but will get a much fairer shot to prove his worth. Being on that Athens team has made him hungry for a gold.
A multi-talented big man will definitely be a big value. FIBA is a much more physical brand, so his free-throw prowess will come into play.
Shedding the "selfish" label will definitely help him, as it will definitely take a team effort for this to work. I was personally surprised to see him under consideration a few years ago, but the idea is growing on me.
A young superstar who should be making a couple of these trips—but given his inexperience, it will be interesting to see how he makes the adjustment to the different nuances of FIBA. His free-throw troubles worry me a bit, but he can definitely hold his own.
This is a guy who had to be on this team, as he is becoming a worldwide star. I know he is dead set on capturing an NBA title for his hometown Cavaliers, but a gold medal might be an equivalent honor.
This is a good pick because of his veteran leadership, since he has been through the Olympic field of play before. Thankfully, because of the talent pool, he won't subject his body to nay more punishment than necessary.
This is one of the young stars that I am excited to see perform on the Olympic stage. He seemed to transcend the NBA playoffs and should have been named the MVP this past year, but he will win his fair share of awards in the years to come.
Versatility will be his calling card, as he is a lockdown defender with great length. He can defend four positions, and his offensive game isn't bad either. The only problem will be finding minutes for him—but that shouldn't be too much of an issue.
This is a guy who should've been on the team in 2004, a guy who can shoot the lights out of a gymnasium. It was obvious that the last team did not have any shooters to make teams think about changing their defense, so Redd is a slam-dunk pick.
It seems to me that the US has a lot of similar swingman-type of players, but Wade's talent almost dictates he be placed on this team—and you will not find this writer disputing that.
The US is wise to carry three points guards to Beijing. Even with Kidd's experience, I am a little skeptical about the his health and how his body will hold up. Should he start to break down, Williams will be the second point guards, who can carry the team.
Overall, the makeup of this roster is very solid, although I would have tried to find one more shooter to be a zone-buster, as the Americans will face a good dose of zone defense.
Either that or another big man would have been beneficial, but since only 12 can make the team, this is by far the Americans' best chance to bring back the gold medal where it belongs—back home.
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