Saturday, August 9, 2008
Ok, my fellow blogger Sam already took a crack at Team USA, but I need a chance to get in my piece before 10 am tomorrow (when we play China).
Listen, I have watched every Team USA game since I can remember, and I especially remember last year’s debacle. We played selfishly, were coached terribly, and (I think) didn’t give enough effort.
However, I do not buy the argument that that is how we play basketball in the U.S. Sure, that is how Team USA plays, but please don’t generalize that as our country’s style of play. It’s not. That is how a gaggle of our stars played on an unfamiliar stage. One thing people forget is that the European teams have been playing together for years. Our guys (last year) got together a few months before the Games started and they played like it. The Euros had a chance to develop chemistry; we didn’t.
Don’t mistake this as an excuse; I think the U.S. should beat the snot out of every fucking team from Europe any day of the week. It shouldn’t even be close. I’m just saying that is an undeniable factor that contributed to how the Games were played.
Here’s another thing that contributed to our loss: “International” rules, keys and 3-point lines.
I hate this more than I can express to you via the Internet. To truly grasp the extent of my confused rage on this subject, you have to talk to me in person, but I’ll try to give you a general idea. If we invented the game, why doesn’t everybody play by our rules? A very American sentiment, I know, but hear me out. Do the Euros think they’ve made improvements? Yeah, a warped key, softer fouls, rewards for flopping, and a shorter 3-point line is exactly what this game needed. The shorter 3 not only implies that you couldn’t just man up and heave it from NBA distance (you know, where the best players in the world can shoot from?) but it encourages more 3’s, which encourages softer basketball, which is what we inevitably get when we watch the Europeans (I’m generalizing, but for the sake of argument, please run with it). Quick hardness contest: Fabricio Oberto vs. Dwight Howard. Better yet, Oberto vs. Chris Kaman. I rest my case. Oberto may be the softest “big” on the face of the earth. That includes Yao Ming. I hate that guy (Oberto, not Yao).
The softness factor gets us back to where flopping originated: European soccer pitches. I truly hate flopping. The only basketball-related thing I hate more than flopping is the man who flops. I’m talking to you, Manu Ginobili. Refs calling a foul on a flop is basically rewarding someone for being a punk-ass. Why do the refs have to bail you out? Why can’t you man up and play real defense, or get by your man on offense? And it’s filtered down into the NBA. That’s the sad thing. Why are we trying to turn basketball into soccer, where flopping not only is acceptable but encouraged? Used to be, somebody drew fouls by driving hard to the basket. Now? You can draw fouls by flailing your arms out and crying like a little bitch. Yeah, I said bitch. I hate flopping, and I’m steeling myself up for a lot of it because, well, that just how the European teams play.
Now those rule changes, however nonsensical given who’s changing them, are there, and we have to deal with them. Sam thinks we have done a poor job preparing for the international style of play, but Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com disagrees. Check out his article on how LeBron James has morphed into a FIBA player. This should come as no surprise. Haven’t we been working on this for the past two years?
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony probably aren’t at their given positions playing power forward. But let’s think seriously about the legit power forwards we’ll be facing: Pau Gasol, if he is going to be playing significant time at that position, is the only one I’m worried about. He’s a great player, there’s no getting around it. I think a good way to handle that is to have Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard on the court covering Marc and Pau Gasol as much as possible, and when they're not, have either Howard or Bosh cheat over to Pau. I am very comfortable with making Marc and the rest of Spain beat us, especially when their second-best player had to fight for playing time behind the esteemed T.J. Ford of the Toronto Raptors.
Luis Scola? Is that even a real question? Yeah he’s a good role player, that’s about it. He’s only an inch taller than LeBron and the same height as Melo, so stick one of them on him. End of story.
Mehmet Okur? I dare him to beat us on his own. I’m trying to think if I know anyone else on Turkey’s squad…let’s see…nope. Just D up everyone else and let Memo beat us. Or better yet, triple-team Memo and let the rest of the team beat us. Actually, no. That would be mean.
If, like Sam says, the international forwards and centers will be playing 20 feet away from the basket, we should have no problem dominating on the glass, so I’m not worried. As for the rebounding numbers, I’m sure if rebounding was the only thing he was asked to do, like in Scola’s case, LeBron would grab 20 a game. Same goes for if he was standing under the basket all night, like Pau, instead of handling the ball the majority of the game. The only number that surprised me was Memo’s. Good for him, now let’s see him do it in the Olympics when he’s doing the scoring for his whole team. Plus, any basketball coach will tell you rebounding is not about height; it’s about your butt. If you box out and get position, height will not matter.
Sam also painted Dwight Howard as a defensive liability for this team. Not true. He was fifth in the league in blocks per game this year, and as for the centers he’ll be guarding? They’re already scared to come inside, and with Dwight in there, they’ll be petrified. They aren’t even quicker than he is; they just seem like it because they don’t play in the post. Marc Gasol vs. Dwight Howard. I’m shivering.
By the way, while we’re on the subject of Dwight, I will be keeping a special stat during these Olympic games: Career-Ending Dunk, or CED. This will occur when Dwight Howard dunks on someone (preferably Oberto) so savagely they will be forced to quit basketball. Early prediction: 10 for the whole tournament. How is he possibly a liability?
As for the U.S. running isos all game, I highly doubt it. Coach K is a lot of things, but he ain’t stupid. I hate the man as much as the next guy who doesn’t go to Duke, but he is the best basketball mind of his generation and has a proven record when it comes to making individual talent come together into a team. He will adapt to the Euros and their outrageous bastardization of the game I love, and he will beat them at their own game.
I look forward to an international shellacking. God Bless America.
Posted by Joe at 11:49 PM