Gold Bound: Can The USA Men’s Basketball Team Rise To The Occasion?

Kevin MooreCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2008

The world stage of sports is upon us once again.  The next installment of the Olympics will be held in communist China. I wonder if there will be a picture-taking limit. 

The Olympics are a time when many Americans take notice of sports that otherwise go unheralded.  From track and field to synchronized swimming, Americans find interest in these events from pure patriotism and nationalism.  Ask the average American to name the top three shot putters and you may be there a while.

However, if there is a sport very familiar to the American psyche, especially on the world stage, it is basketball. 

Many sports, once dominated the US, have been overtaken by other nations.  Basketball was one of the last to be taken away from us.  It was the final event in which we were almost guaranteed a gold medal.

Long gone are the days of the “Dream Team,” but the new American basketball team—and most importantly, the American fan—still believes in our re-emergence to dominate in this realm. 

After a few disappointments on the world stage the new USA basketball team seems ready to take back its place at the top of the pedestal during medal ceremonies.

The 2008 version of the Olympic team features some of the best talent the NBA can offer. The point guard position is by far the deepest position on the team, starting with perennial All-Star Jason Kidd. 

Kidd has solidified his place in NBA history—fifth all-time in assists, and averaging a triple double in the Eastern Conference finals to help lift the Nets out of obscurity.

While J Kidd has been an asset more than a detriment, his game is not without flaws. He will take the occasional unnecessary three-point shot.  He is prone to miss the clutch free throw, and at times he’ll start fast breaks in an uncontrolled manner.

Following Kidd are the future  of point guard in the NBA—Chris Paul and Deron William. The only question for these two is if they are mentally ready for this type of stage.  When faced with elimination during the NBA playoffs, both players played well—yet their teams still lost.

At the shooting guard spot, we have two players that think passing is a disease, in Kobe Bryant and Michael Redd. Now, to Kobe’s credit, he did learn to trust his teammates more this past season.  But in the Finals, Kobe reverted to the old Kobe. 

Maybe it was the intensity of that Celtics defense, but a couple of things are still unknown: With those great point guards, how will Kobe react without controlling the ball? And if the team struggles, will he overstep the bounds of his position and try to take over?

As for Michael Redd, I do give him more of a pass (pun intended), because his supporting cast left much to be desired. In many instances if he did not shoot, the team had no chance of offensive prosperity.

The forward position consists of a very solid and diverse group. With Bosh, Prince, and Boozer, the team is sure to get great, hard-working play from whistle to whistle. Even at center, Dwight Howard is an all-out type of player on both sides of the ball.

And then there is Carmelo. No one can deny he is a star talent on the offensive end.  It was mainly his talent that secured the Orangemen’s national championship (no disrespect to Hakim Warrick or Gerry McNamara).

What he brings to the table in offense he lacks in defense. One has to wonder—will Carmelo bring the Nuggets’ matador style of defense to Asia

Finally, the last pieces of the puzzle are Dwayne Wade and Lebron James.  These players, more than any one in the league, have demonstrated that they have the ability to put an entire team on their backs.

Dwayne Wade did it against Dallas in '06, during the NBA finals, while Lebron illustrated the feat against the Pistons in '07 and versus the Celtics in '08, despite those series ending with different results.

No team is perfect. This edition of the men’s team is no different.  I wonder if the selection committee looks at building a team, versus having a roster stacked with recognizable names.  

For example: Who is the three-point specialist on this team?  They have a number of slashers, but no real consistent outside threat.  No one knew how to get in contact with Kyle Korver or Jason Kapono?  How is the offense going to spread the floor?  The makeup of the team can be puzzling sometimes.

To solve this problem, how about the league allowing or even mandating that the NBA Champs of that Olympic year represent the USA?  The current structure groups together a bunch of players that are not accustomed to one another and expects them to play as a cohesive unit.

I feel that the best example of a winning team is the NBA champs.  Could you imagine what that smothering Piston’s defense would have done in '04? Or the play of this year's Celtics?

With that said, this year’s squad is set in stone. The USA has a formidable team, loaded with talent and the potential to be great—if they take care of business and incorporate the meaning of unity to achieve their goals.