Well, play time is over. Let the games begin! Team USA finished the pre-Olympic exhibition season 5-0, concluding with an unimpressive victory over Australia.
The Americans clearly demonstrated their athletic superiority when they were able to get out in transition against inferior teams such as Canada and Turkey.
However, they struggled in half-court offensive sets when teams like Russia and Australia packed it in, forcing the Redeem Teamers to beat them from the perimeter.
In the final game against Australia, Team USA shot a horrendous 3-for-18 from behind the arc and 20-for-33 from the free throw line (Dwight Howard was an embarrassing 0-for-6).
On the defensive end, the Americans were able to create turnovers with stifling and aggressive defense during the five games. However, they gambled too much when going for steals, which led to wide open shots.
Also, they lost focus in half-court defensive sets at times, allowing back door cuts and getting caught in screens.
Their first Olympic game is on August 10 against the Yao Ming-led Chinese team. Between now and then, Team USA has quite a bit to work on if they plan to get that gold medallion around their necks.
First, they must enjoy some free time, go out and have a night on the town. Some may say that’s not focusing, but everybody needs a mental break to stay relaxed.
Secondly, they must work on execution in the half court. The other teams know they are finished if Team USA can get out on the break, so they are going to pack it in and slow the game down.
It is imperative that players like Deron Williams and Chris Paul get into the teeth of the defense to set up open shots for others.
Next, they must practice shooting. Team USA struggled from the perimeter and free throw line against Australia, like they did in the '06 World Championships and in the '04 Olympics. They need players like Redd, Kobe, and Carmelo to shoot consistently on the perimeter or they will be in trouble.
Lastly, they must stay focused on the defensive end. I noticed that Team USA tries to go for steals too much and when they miss, someone is wide open for three-point shots.
Teams with good ball handlers such as Greece and Spain won’t turn the ball over as much, so the Americans must play smart D for a whole possession. Call out screens, watch the backdoor cuts, switch when needed. If they don’t stay attentive, they will lose.
This is the moment Team USA has been preparing for going on three years now. They have the talent and will to capture gold in Beijing. Now they just have to bring it home.