The U.S. Basketball team went a perfect 5-0 through the exhibition schedule. While the Beijing-bound squad is the best looking team the USA has put together since the Sydney Olympics, I am not fully convinced they will come home with the Gold.
Yes, they went undefeated, and yes, they looked dominating in their first four exhibition games, but they showed their vulnerability against Australia. The Aussie squad, who were without their best player Andrew Bogut, hung tough with the U.S. At one point in the third quarter, Australia came within four points.
In my opinion, the U.S. are the most talented team. In a five game series, I'd go with them every time. But in a medal round where one game can cost you the Gold or Silver, anything can happen.
If they have an off night, they could very easily fall to a Greece, Spain or Argentina. That has nothing to do with the USAs lack of preparation or desire to win; it just has to do with the level of competition they are facing.
There is no question the U.S. Olympic basketball team is coming into Beijing with a huge chip on their shoulder. After failing to win gold in the 2004 Greece Olympics and the 02 and 06 FIBA World Championships, America has seen its dominance in hoops virtually disappear.
Gone are the days when the U.S. could round up any 12 NBA guys, label them the Dream Team, then alley-oop and showtime their way to an effortless Gold medal. Obviously the rest of the world has caught up, so the U.S. was forced to take this more seriously. After losing in Athens, USA Basketball started their road to redemption by assembling a group of players and coaches that would give a three-year commitment every summer in order to create a team with an identity.
Jerry Colangelo did a great job assembling a deep and versatile team. Instead of just stacking talent, he went out and filled needs. When teams go zone, the team has sharp-shooters Michael Redd and Tayshaun Prince to knock down shots. Prince brings a Pippen-esque versatility to the squad and plays incredible defense.
Jerry also made a good call adding two leaders in Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant. Both players are ultimate competitors as well as leaders for a team that has relatively young players in LeBron, Carmelo, Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Coach K has done an excellent job motivating them and getting them to buy into team basketball and play D.
The U.S. has a tough road to gold. In their first game they face the home country China with Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian. Not only do they have to deal with those twin towers, but their fans as well. Before they go to the medal round, they also have to see the Pao and Calderon combo, the great team play of Greece and Dirk Nowitzkis Germany squad. If America is going to survive, they are going to have to do these three things.
--First, they have to check the egos at the door. There is only 40 minutes in a game, and everybody wants to play. But the reality is, some players will sit, and they have to maintain the team concept and make sure not to be a distraction.--Second of all, they must not take anybody lightly. Four years ago, Puerto Rico crept up on them in an exhibition game. No matter how much better they may be on paper than their opposition, they must play hard all game. This means playing defense, diving on the floor, sharing the basketball and not letting up on leads.--Third, they must adjust styles according to who they play. Whether they face a good zone or are forced to deal with a team like China thats got Yao clogging the middle, they must be able to adapt and adjust their games.
They focus on these things, and I think they have an excellent chance to leave China with Gold. What do you think?