the fiba americas concluded a month ago while the european version just finished a couple of weeks ago thereby completing the leading cast for the favorites to get 2008 olympic gold for basketball.
like i said in a prior blog posting, i do like sports (better yet, WE do like sports as selle has learned to appreciate it 🙂). basketball may not be my favorite sport but i still am fascinated by it. international basketball was even made more interesting when professional players were allowed to participate back in the 1992 barcelona olympics.
historically, usa has dominated olympic basketball. their 62-0 record though was snapped in the 1972 olympic finals against soviet union, which still remains one of the most controversial moments in olympic history. usa though regained the gold in the following olympics and continued their dominance until 1988 (except in 1980 wherein usa did not participate) where, finally, the american college stars had problems with their more experienced opponents and consequently only took bronze. this probably was the reason why usa basketball lobbied for the inclusion of professional players in olympic tournaments. they got their wish and in 1992… the dream team was born.
in 1992, usa proved that there is still a huge gap between them and the rest of the world when it comes to basketball. successive trashings of the opposition in the following world championships and olympics even cemented this claim. it was this same dominance which will prove to be the reason for their gradual downfall. top players started losing that desire to play for their country stating that there is nothing more to prove. even the organizers started treating international basketball more like an exhibition and not a serious competition. all these culminated in successive “failures” in 2002 world championships, 2004 olympics and 2006 world championships. note that for team usa, anything less than gold is considered a failure… although usa historically didn’t take the fiba world championships seriously.
being proud people, team usa had enough and have since employed a different approach to international competition. their goal was to get the gold back in 2008.
but before that, they had to qualify for the olympics at the fiba americas.
did they qualify? not only did they qualify… they obliterated the competition. it was sight to behold with each game being practically over by the 2nd (sometimes 3rd) quarter and, yes, at times, it was like watching the dream team all over again.
but even with such dominance, skeptics still abound stating that their opponents did not field their best players (most notably argentina) hence tainting usa’s victory. if the same logic is used, usa also didn’t field their best players in recent tournaments so does that mean argentina and spain’s victories are illegitimate also? i personally think this kind of logic is skewed but never mind the critics and let’s just look at what team usa’s chances are for 2008.
i say their chances are good… really, really good.
why so? two things:
- their mentality. these guys are angry and they play with something to prove. they’re intense on both sides of the court… and they never let up.
- their athleticism. hands down, usa has the most athletic players in the world and they put it in good use. they run, run and run a lot. they pressure the ball which leads to turnovers… and they run even more.
but just to be really, really sure… i think (even my wife observed this), team usa needs to have a few personnel changes. generally speaking, they need:
- a more suitable backup point guard. whenever jason kidd sits down, team usa slows down. whenever team usa slows down, they do not play to their strength which gives their more disciplined opponents some semblance of a chance.
- another dominating big man. only dwight howard can be considered a wide body in the current lineup and nobody else. they need another one when they matchup with those physical european teams. amare can play center but he’s better suited at power forward or play him together with another rebounding monster. it would be nice if they team-up chandler and amare both at the same time but i just do not see the coaching staff doing it.
so who stays? who goes?
- jason kidd definitely stays. he ignites the fastbreak. finds the open man. he is the key to this team.
- dwight howard is a certainty also. to ignite the fastbreak, a team needs to control the boards. howard is a monster at collaring rebounds.
- lebron james, carmelo anthony, kobe bryant stays by default. they’re versatile and explosive at the offensive end. though i think they can live without kobe (note: i don’t like him 🙂), i don’t see usa basketball taking him out of the team. he does play sticky defense… i’ll give him that.
- amare stoudamire stays also. he is the only big man on the current roster with low-post moves (i’m not counting carmelo because he’s really not a big man).
- michael redd is definitely in. this team needs a consistent outside threat like him. i’ll take michael redd over kobe any day. (did i mention already that i do not like kobe? 🙂)
- chauncey billups & deron williams. one of them, if not both, will go. they just hog the ball too much slowing down the potent quick-attack offense. plus chauncey takes too many shots. personally, i say chauncey is out and deron has a 50-50 chance to return.
- mike miller & teyshaun prince. both are in the bubble. miller’s shooting performance was just off during the tournament while prince may be too thin at power forward against bigger teams. i think only one (or maybe none) of them stays… not both.
- tyson chandler. another one in the bubble. he rebounds a lot and blocks a lot of shots, all that is needed from a big man on this team. the only knack on him is he has zero offensive game and he can be overpowered. though i think he fits the big man role well, he will most probably be replaced.
who are the prime candidates?
- dwyane wade. although this team might not need him (lebron, melo & kobe is crowded enough), barring an injury, he will be on this team. he does bring defense and agressiveness on offense.
- chris bosh/elton brand/carlos boozer/shawn marion. one of these guys (or maybe two) will be inserted on the lineup for that added rebounding dominance and low-post presence inside (bosh/brand/boozer). marion is interesting because his style of play perfectly suits the run-and-gun tactics being employed by team usa.
- chris paul/gilbert arenas. chauncey surely didn’t work so they need another point guard. it’s either the play-making ability of chris paul or the defense and scoring of agent zero.
- shane battier/bruce bowen. they can replace teyshaun prince and act as the designated defensive stopper. both bowen & battier has better shooting than prince but prince can guard bigger guys. in any case, this team must have a defensive stopper.
yes, we are leaving out other more popular (and more talented) players (shaq, jermaine o’neal, ben wallace, kg, tim duncan (eeew 😆), t-mac, ray allen… etc) simply because they are not part of the pool assembled by usa basketball. plus this gives usa basketball a chance to use use the skewed logic mentioned above as an alibi and state that they did not field their best players in case they lose. 😆
bottom line, i always believe that in basketball, a team must play their game and not their opponent’s style. since team usa’s real strength is their athleticism, their style of play must showcase that (which they did at the fiba americas). they should continue to play man-to-man pressure defense (forget the zone defense please…) and use automatic switching on screens. push the ball hard and play open-court basketball. quick-passing on half-court offense leading to either an open 3 or an easy dunk. it’s that style of play more than the personnel that would lead team usa to victory.
anyway, let’s just see what happens on beijing next year. it will surely be fun to watch. 🙂
ps if they can’t find another point guard, i suggest they use lebron as their point whenever kidd is on the bench then surround him with shooters and power dunkers. that would be fun. 😀