A wise man once said, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
After watching Team USA’s 101-70 win over the Chinese National Team it seemed like 2004 all over again.
Frankly, I’m nervous.
How can the Redeem Team’s 31-point blowout win over host nation China cause such angst? Let me count the ways.
First, and most importantly, the U.S. National Team failed to score in the half court. Against China’s various zone defenses, the Redeem Team of 2008 looked an awful lot like the Dream Team of 2004 which lost three games on its way to a very disappointing bronze medal.
In ’04, U.S. opponents packed in tight defensive zones to prevent the more athletic Dream Teamers from driving the lane which forced them to make outside shots. The U.S. never made adjustments to attack the zone, i.e. moving the basketball around, moving through the zone without the ball, and hitting threes.
Like the 2004 incarnation, the Redeem Team tried to rely on one on one dribble drive and kick to sustain offense in the half court against China. History tells us it won’t work.
Granted, China’s sloppy ball handling, inability to handle full court pressure, and a ridiculously incompetent transition defense rendered the need for half court offense obsolete; however, the few attempts at half court play were miserable.
If this kind of play continues, the Redeemers are going to have to shoot lights out to win gold.
This leads me to reason number two, the inability of the U.S. team to hit three-pointers. Like the ’04 squad, opponent countries will force the U.S. to make shots from the perimeter. Like the ’04 squad, this U.S. team failed, at least so far.
As a team the U.S. shot a woeful 29 percent from behind the line. Not exactly the kind of shooting that will force teams to come out of a zone.
What happens when the U.S. can’t rely on defense and transition scoring for offense? What happens when a team forces the U.S. into half court play? What happens when the Redeemers face excellent ball handlers, teams that don’t turn the ball over like the game was hot potato instead of basketball, and teams that actually get back on defense in transition?
Believe me, those teams are coming. Did you see Spain play? Germany?
Finally, Jason Kidd’s stat line reads like my high school career averages: 0 points, 0 assists, 3 turnovers in 13 minutes of play.
This is the starting point guard of the team favored to win the gold in Beijing?
Thank God for Chris Paul: 6 assists, 1 turnover, and 3 points in 19 minutes. The Chinese could not keep him out of the lane despite a healthy dose of zone defense.
Kudos to Coach K for playing Paul more minutes than Kidd. However, wouldn’t the U.S. have been better served with a great rebounder, low post defender, one who maybe had some experience playing with one Chris Paul?
Has Team USA learned from its history? I sure hope so, but frankly, I’m nervous.