Sunday, September 03, 2006

What next for Team USA?

After winning the bronze medal against Argentina, the question that arises for the US is -- what next? Do we add better players, play together more, or stay the same?

Well, first of all, I think that, whatever others may say, the US is still the best team in the world. This is the best in the world, without changes. The loss against Greece was because the missed free throws when they had to make them. Despite how far international basketball has come, the US still has the talent to win against teams simply because of their superior offense. They beat Italy because of their offense, they nearly beat Greece because of their scoring, and they did the same to Argentina. This is not a defensive team, to say the least. Some people criticize them for playing one-on-one too much, but two points are two points, no matter how you score them, and America can beat any team in the world playing that way.

However, I think that they can become even becoming worse. In other words, take off some of the scoreres, and put in more role players. On Team USA, you have Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Elton Brand, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, and Chris Paul. That's seven players who are relied on by their team to score 25 points a night, seven franchise players. History shows that teams like that don't succeed, because all those players are most effective with the ball in their hands, and don't do well without it. Everyone made a big deal about Shane Battier making the team, a real live roleplayer. But they need more than just one guy. They need guys like Wade, Anthony, and Lebron of course. Those are the guys who are relied upon to shoot and score. But players that only rebound, only shoot, and only play defense are also needed. When you have five guys out on the floor who know they have only one thing to do, and they know exactly what it is and how to do it, then you're going to play a lot better than if you have five guys who have to do several things all the time.

One of the most urgent things is a big man. Not just any big man, but a defensive, helpside blocking big man. Get Joel Przybilla or Steven Hunter if need be, but just get a big man who plays defense. One of the biggest weaknesses of Team USA was the lack of interior defense. The opposition could ski right past perimeter guys and get an easy layup. Howard and Brand are good blockers, but they also have other worries. You'll also find that once you get a good center who'll be right behind you to back you up and help on your man, and the opposition knows he's going to go for the block, then they'll stop driving so much, and will start taking low-percentage jump shots. That was not a characteristic of the USA's defense.

So, what's the point of all this? Why improve the team if they can already beat any other country? Well, as I said before, the international players have improved by leaps and bounds -- big leaps and bounds. The NBA still has more talent, but they've gone from winning by huge margins, to winning but nearly losing, to winning, but also losing sometimes. Someday, teams like Spain or Agentina, or even China, will have the teamwork (which is how Greece won), and the talent and athleticism. Then the US will be up the roaring Nile in a little coracle without a paddle.

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