Team USA was victorious today over Iran, but somehow I don't feel like celebrating.
Kevin Durant scored 12 points, Derrick Rose notched 11 and Kevin Love dominated off the bench with 13 points and six rebounds as the U.S. defeated Iran by 37 points, 88-51.
Yet, doubts still remain about this young Team USA squad and its ability to compete with the world's best in the elimination rounds of the FIBA World Championship.
Shouldn't this win remove any questions surrounding this team after Brazil nearly knocked them off? Shouldn't basketball experts be pointing to the camaraderie surrounding this team, and its ability to overcome adversity?
No. USA Basketball is held to a higher standard. The goal is perfection. Anything less is not enough.
And after watching the first quarter against Iran, it became quite clear this bunch is far from perfect. Sure Team USA had a six-point advantage after the first period, but it was a struggle.
And more than anything, Team USA's dependency on its athleticism and not teamwork and fundamentals was made blatantly clear.
On offense, Durant was forced to isolate his man to get the U.S. a basket. He made a few crossover dribbles before spotting up for a three-pointer and knocking it down. That's not something he's used to doing in the NBA, and not something that generally leads to success in the international game.
On defense, guards were not moving their feet and staying in front of their opponent. Instead, they let their men get by and then tried to poke the ball out from behind. That's not how professionals play defense.
Yet, that's what the Americans did in Turkey, and it succeeded. Of course, they are all NBA players. The best player on the Iranian team, Hamed Haddadi, is a backup center for the Memphis Grizzlies.
This lack of coherence will never go away, since Team USA is constructed in a very short time period. Even if the 2008 Olympic Team returned, teamwork issues would still surface.
However, it's the players' responsibility to commit to the fundamentals and play the game the right way, even if it's not the easy thing to do.
I'm sure it's a lot easier for Rudy Gay, Tyson Chandler and Stephen Curry to gamble on defense and try to initiate a fastbreak. This team is going to run as much as possible. It's their strongest quality.
But that dependence on transition opportunities should not come at the expense of proper halfcourt play. When Team USA matches up against opponents who can hold up athletically, the game will be won and lost by sound halfcourt skills.
Which, to be honest, the Americans have as little of as any team in this tournament.
It would be nice to believe the U.S. is going to win the gold medal handily. But that's not reality. Team USA barely beat Spain in exhibition play, and that same Spanish team is now 1-2 in the tournament. Anything can happen.
Unlike in Beijing, this squad does not possess the pure stardom to take down any international foe. Throw Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard on the court together, and no team stands a chance. Those are the five best players in the world.
Rose, Chauncey Billups, Durant, Andre Iguodala and Lamar Odom? That's not even the bench of an All-Star Team.
Team USA can get by in the opening rounds with speed and strength, but Coach K needs to keep preaching the basics to ground the squad for the tough road ahead.
Otherwise, the U.S. will once again learn a lesson from the international school of fundamentals.
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