The 2008 Beijing Olympics is about to start and I think I will only care for two events – basketball and men’s swimming. The USA basketball, no doubt, are the rock stars in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and since this is a “second and secondmost” a basketball blog, let’s talk about the USA basketball team. (The questions came from Alex.)
Who are the favorites in the men’s basketball event?
On paper, the USA team are the favorites. I think it’s pretty obvious – they have an NBA All-Star lineup that is similar to the Dream Team in terms of the players’ popularity and dominance in their respective positions. Sentimentally, they are my favorites since Kobe is playing for them. I am a huge Laker fan first and foremost.
How can the USA team be defeated?
- The Americans have speed and athleticism. They overwhelm opponents through their running game. The key here is to slow down the game by:
- Using the shot clock – this will hopefully slow the tempo down and prevent explosive finishes by the Americans.
- Limiting outside shooting to prevent long rebounds. Long rebounds, of course, leads to fastbreaks.
- The Americans have limited outside shooting capability. The only pure shooter is Michael Redd and the next best shooter is Kobe Bryant (and Kobe is not a pure shooter). Deron Williams, perhaps, is the 3rd shooter in this team and he has shown us his range during the recent Lakers – Jazz series. If the opponents pack it in and force the Americans to shoot from long range, they have a shot. It seems the zone is the only option for opposing teams to force the Americans to shoot from the outside . They can man in the last quarter or the last few minutes if the score is close.The strange thing is Coach K has given Redd limited minutes in their exhibition games. I think Redd should be given more minutes than Carmelo Anthony but that’s only my opinion. Redd has to be given significant minutes to boost his confidence. When the real tournament in the Olympic happens, I feel that the competition will play “dirty” inside so Redd’s shooting will come in handy to keep the defense honest.
- The Americans have the mental edge. If the opponent comes in thinking the Americans will beat them then they have already been beat. The Australians showed the Americans some “attitude” (jawing with Wade) and the other teams may want to emulate that. They have to tread the line though as you don’t want to give the proud Americans a reason to kick their butts. Don’t back down from their taunts but don’t initiate either.
What should the team work on?
- Outside Shooting – see “How can the USA team be defeated?”
- Passing – with this all-start cast, it’s very easy to slack on offense and go 1 on 1. All of the five players on the floor (on any given time) can score, so, if possible, they should all be shooting when there is no man harassing them. But then again, these players are so used to defenders all over them that shooting without a defender might not work for them. We all know Coach K has them practicing to shoot without a defender, how funny.
Which international player/s or team/s should we look out for?
I’m not very familiar with international players but I hear Marc Gasol has vastly improved. If that is true, a twin tower of Pau and Marc may do damage in Olympic basketball.