Head coach Mike Krzyzewski and the United States basketball team are looking to make a statement this year at the FIBA World Championships.
Granted, the U.S. hasn’t won at the FIBA World Championships since 1994; but now that they are being led by the greatest coach in the history of sports, Team USA will be looking to bring home another gold in 2010.
Coach K and his young yet talented group of NBA players are already making some noise this year, routing Croatia 106-78 in the preliminary round game today.
Team USA will play Slovenia tomorrow at 9 a.m. EST before facing Brazil on Monday.
With all that in mind, let’s quickly take a look at 10 things we learned from the first U.S. win at the 2010 FIBA Championships.
Two of the key bench performers for Team USA in the 2010 FIBA World Championships opener against Croatia were Russell Westbrook and Rudy Gay.
Westbrook (11 PTS) shot 4-for-6 from the field (going 1-for-1 from beyond the arc) along with four assists and three rebounds.
Gay, meanwhile, netted 10 points (3-for-8 from the field, 1-for-5 from three point range) in addition to four rebounds, one steal, and a block.
In their opener against Croatia, Team USA shot 54.5 percent from the charity stripe, a number I am convinced Coach K is disappointed about, and those free throw numbers must improve if they hope to win it all in 2010.
Chauncey Billups (4-for-4) and Kevin Durant (3-for-3) were the only two U.S. players to shoot 100 percent from the stripe, with Rudy Gay being the next best in line (3-for-5).
Sadly, four players failed to even make an attempt and both Tyson Chandler (0-for-2) and Lamar Odom (0-for-2) couldn’t make a free throw even with two opportunities.
If Team USA is truly hoping to bring home a 2010 FIBA World Championships title, the team’s free throw shooting must improve.
Stephen Curry, playing a tad over 15 minutes in Team USA’s blowout win, must improve his numbers on the court if the red, white, and blue hope to capture a gold.
Curry was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc on Saturday, although he did dish out four dimes during his time on the hardwood. However, he needs to find a way to keep himself in the game longer while continuing to score (as well as assist) for the U.S. basketball team.
Both Kevin Love and Lamar Odom will be major factors in helping propel Team USA to a title, and they are already beginning to step up when called upon.
Odom, playing a few seconds over 16 minutes in the team’s victory, scored six points and pulled down five rebounds. While Love, who played 13:14 of action against Croatia, grabbed 10 monster rebounds along with seven points, two assists, and a steal.
Both Odom and Love will be vital pieces to the puzzle in redefining USA basketball to the entire world; and if Coach K and company can continue playing this tournament the way they did against Croatia today, I have no doubt they’ll be returning to America as FIBA World Champions.
For the most part, both Team USA and Croatia were neck-in-neck in terms of rebounding; but America ran away from their competition in terms of assists and steals, with Team USA dishing off 22 dimes (compared to just nine for Croatia) and garnering eight steals (compared to four for Croatia).
In addition, the U.S. basketball team scored 13 points off turnovers while netting 19 points off fast break opportunities. These are the kind of stats that have to make Coach K grin from ear to ear.
Team USA held Croatia to a mere six points in the second quarter of action, pulling away for a 48-26 halftime lead after a very close first quarter.
And defense has been a key for this young and gunning USA Team from day one, with many of their exhibition games being a marquee example of remarkable defense on the hardwood.
In addition, the U.S. basketball team ended the first half on a 10-0 run.
If these sort of hot scoring streaks can continue for this group of players representing America, it will only be a matter of time before the world once again recognizes the United States as the best of the bests in basketball.
Chauncey Billups, the captain of Team USA, will play an extremely significant role in returning the U.S. to the top, as the Americans aim to break their losing streak in FIBA World Championships.
Against Croatia, Billups scored 12 points along with three rebounds, two assists, and one steal.
Playing 20:42 of the contest, Billups shot 40 percent from beyond the arc (2-for-5) while shooting a perfect 100 percent from the charity stripe (4-for-4).
The leading scorer for Team USA in an opening round rout of Croatia was Eric Gordon, who came off the bench for Coach K and netted 16 points in 22:05 of playing time.
Gordon, who shot 75 percent from the field (6-for-8), drained four three-pointers en route to a 106-78 victory.
Kevin Durant, to no one’s surprise, was a major star once again for Team USA.
Durant scored 14 points in 20:43 of action in the tourney opener, along with shooting 100 percent from the free throw line (3-for-3).
Shooting 45 percent from the field (5-for-11), Durant also pulled down eight rebounds while dishing out three assists in the team’s victory.
The number one thing we learned, at least in my opinion, is that Coach K truly is “America’s Coach.” Along those lines, I also believe Coach K is ready to reestablish USA basketball as the premiere representation of the game. So far, so good.
However Coach K and company are far from finished, as the U.S. team has high hopes of reintroducing a new and improved American basketball team to the world.
Many out there may call these guys the “B” team for the USA, but I have no doubt these guys can win it all in 2010. And the reason behind that revolves around the man at the helm of the program: Coach K, America’s Coach.
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org