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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Has the United States Made the Adjustment?

Yesterday, the United States brought their record in the FIBA Americas Championships to 3-0 with a 50 point throttling of Canada, 113-63.

Through the first three games, the US is averaging a winning margin of 52 points per game.

While these early opponents aren’t all that impressive, the dominance of the victories IS, and it is a very good sign for the return of United States competitiveness in international play. And really, it seems to be a simple solution to their past problems – the US seems to have actually taken the situation SERIOUSLY for the first time in some years.

On the whole, the United States has more great basketball players than any other country in the world (the large size of the population might be a factor, but why quibble?), so you would think that they would be able to adjust to whatever weird type of system of basketball that the international teams play, whether the US players “bond” together as a team like the other countries do or not.

The problem being is that, after the second Dream Team, the US seemed to take an approach of, “Hey, EVERYone can get a medal!,” as the best players began to skip the Olympics, leading to a diminishing squad where, in 2004, the United States only had one legitimately GREAT player in their main rotation, Tim Duncan, who FIBA wouldn’t let him play his game, so with Duncan not being allowed to dominate as he logically should, the rest of the team just wasn’t talented enough to dominate strictly on talent, so they had to play by FIBA rules, only the US didn’t HAVE anyone who would play by FIBA rules (true point guards plus three point specialists), so it was just logical that the United States would have a problem (now, perhaps if coach Larry Brown had played the other TWO legitimately great players, Lebron James and Amare Stoudemire, and given the fourth legitimately great player, Dwyane Wade, more than spot backup point guard minutes, then perhaps the US team COULD have won on talent alone, but we’ll never know).

In 2006, at the World Championships, they attempted to alleviate this a bit by allowing James, Wade and Carmelo Anthony to be the stars of the team, but it was clear that as much of an improvement over the 2004 team that the 2006 team was, the star power was lower (Wade, James, Anthony < Wade, James, Amare and Duncan) and like I mentioned before, if the star power is not there, then the US team has to go with players who fit into FIBA rules (true point guards and three point specialists), and while they attempted to do so a bit by adding Kirk Hinrich and Chris Paul for the point guard roles, they somehow managed to avoid adding a SINGLE three-point specialist for the 2006 team.

Luckily, this year has shown a true commitment to winning, as James and Anthony have remained on the team (no Wade, but they are joined by a healthy Amare), but Paul and Hinrich were replaced by (wait for it) Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams. Then Michael Redd FINALLY was added to the team, along with Mike Miller, and suddenly the team had not only three-point specialists and true point guards, they had, in Kidd and Billups, STAR point guards.

Oh, and then they added Kobe freakin’ Bryant.

So suddenly, the United States has a team that is filled with stars AND players who fit into FIBA rules.

Things are looking up.

8 comments on “Has the United States Made the Adjustment?

  1. 94by50

    What distinguishes this edition of USA Basketball from the versions of the early 2000s is that there is organization involved. Players aren’t simply being asked to play or not play for a tournament. They’re asked to make a long-term commitment to the program, and there are enough players involved that it allows the coaches and administrators flexibility in setting up each team.

    Also, this version of the team is far more well-rounded than any since 2000. At least, it seems to be. You tell me: would Mike Miller have ever sniffed an invite to play for us internationally before this year? I doubt it.

  2. 94by50

    (To add: what I meant in the second paragraph is that Miller has strengths that fill weaknesses the US team would have had otherwise – in this case, outside shooting. There has been a consistent effort to create a team with no weaknesses, as opposed to the “All-Star teams” of previous years.)

  3. Mike C.

    while I think this US team is gonna plow over any other team in this tournament, in the Olympics there will be tougher competition. I like the team, but I’d like to see a big who can create his own shot in the post and not just a finisher just in case or outside shooting inst going in some game. other than that I think this is a gold medal team. I think we can find better players than Williams, Billups, and Chandler, but thats just nitpicking.

  4. jon abbey

    Chad Ford had the solution a couple of competitions back, one that makes so much sense to me that I think it’s crazy that they haven’t used it yet.

    along with 8 or 9 NBA All-Stars, you pick a few role players who play all the time in Europe and who are comfortable with the different rules, primarily shooters. I’m sure the article is around somewhere, two guys I remember him suggesting were Trajon Langdon and Tyus Edney (at the time, of course).

  5. JK47

    This version of the team also plays much better perimeter defense than the last few Dream Teams in my opinion. You throw Billups, Kobe and Tayshaun out there and that’s some pretty hellacious perimeter defense.

  6. Hudson River

    Although I think Bill Walton is a lunatic (although hilarious)he made a good point about the difference between this team and teams of year’s past is Jason Kidd and the fact that they have 3 true point guards on their team (Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams). The shooting, Dwight Howard and Amare manhandling the other team down low, and as is the addition of good defensive players (Kobe, Prince, Billups etc…)are all very important towards the team’s success, but the point guard play leads to team unity, and when the players on the roster are motivated, they could beat every team by 30 including Argentina, Spain, Greece, Brazil and all the other powerhouses of the world.

    On another note, doesn’t Mike Miller look god-awful next to all the other top-notch USA players? He commits so many turnovers and does nothing really productive unless hes hitting 3s and playing defense.

  7. Mike C.

    In Miller’s Defense he has 6 turnovers in 6 games, thats not TOO shabby. he is the only US player to foul out of a game though. He serves his purpose, and i hope he isn’t replaced for the Olympics next summer.

    Wade is going to be on the roster (attempting to break the record for most traveling violations in a game) so there goes D. Williams. Bosh is also pretty much a lock to be on the Beijing roster so there goes either Prince or Chandler by my estimation. I’d like to see Oden on the roster taking Chandlers minutes, though we don’t know how good Oden is going to be in the NBA, I bet he could offer just as much Defense as Chandler and get a guy in there who knows how to score with the back to the basket. (Bosh is more of a finesse midrange player, doesn’t like to bang it on the inside)

    When Team USA is playing unselfish team basketball they are unbeatable. we saw tonight against Puerto Rico when US’s shots weren’t falling they reverted back to the 1 on 1 NBA style, and it doesn’t work against these international teams. The unselfish play by the teams leaders started to pick apart the PR defense and once that happened it was over.(speaking of leadership anyone else catch Kobe explaining to Amare how zone defense worked in the halftime shpeal)Having our marquee players buy into a Team philosophy is not only entertaining as hell, but (forgive me for sounding like Bill Walton) its also beautiful thing to watch as a fan of the game of basketball. I smile like a little kid any time I see Howard catch a pass off of someone else’s drive only to leave a pile of bodies in his wake as he seemingly almost brings the whole hoops down.

    All in all, I don’t see any real holes in team USA, besides what I’ve all ready said about a big who can create his own shot inside when the outside shooting isn’t working, but in the last few games I’ve seen both Kobe and Carmello step up and back guys down in the post to get the high % shots up. I hope by the time we play Greece someones taught Amare how to defend the screen and roll, but even if we don’t play stellar defense, as long as we stick to a team game we can probably outscore any team we play.

    On another note, does anyone else prefer these FIBA games to NBA basketball? I’ve been following Olympic basketball and the FIBA world games very closely since 2000 (god bless NBAtv) and while the level of sheer athleticism is lower on these other teams their basketball IQ for some of them is way above some of our players (for example they understand how zone defense works) These are games played by TEAMS and not stars for the most part. I also like a lot of their rule differences. I love the goaltending rule, imagine Lee a guy whose all ready all over the glass being allowed to take it off the rim, or just how many more times guys will get dunked on if the balls live once it hits the rim instead of having to wait for it to either go in or roll out. The shorter court makes for a faster game. A closer 3pt shot = higher scoring games. Even the trapezoid lane has grown on me. I doubt it will ever happen but as long as Stern is the commissioner I can dream.

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