Saturday, August 09, 2008

Figure out what this picture has to do with this post...

With the USA Men's Basketball teamed poised to take on China in what is quite likely the biggest sporting event in the long and storied history of the host country, as well as the first game of the Olympiad for both squads, now seemed like a good time to address the latest iteration of the Men's National Team.

Its no secret that this iteration of the Men's National team was constructed with the sole purpose of recapturing the gold medal. It's also no secret that this American team is as well constructed and talented a team as any that's been put together by USA Basketball since 1992. Jerry Colangelo, Coach K and the rest of the staff have done a fine job of assembling talent and motivating them to play together for a single purpose. However, this team is far from a lock to bring home the gold medal. In fact, I think you'll see them in a back and forth game with China going into the 4th quarter this morning. Simply put, this is still a very flawed basketball team. One that has the ability and raw talent to run teams off the floor but also one that, when faced with adverse circumstances is very likely to retreat inward and become a selfish and individualistic group of players on both ends of the floor.

Now, I don't mean to be what Darkmane is to the X Games here. I want the USA to win and do so in impressive fashion. However, I've also watched enough of this team to be more than a little concerned about how they'll react when faced with a patient team that executes its gameplan for long stretches of time without supplying the US Team with the turnovers that fuel most of its offensive runs. With that said, here are what I see as biggest potential problems for Team USA over the next couple of weeks:

Halfcourt Offense: As I mentioned, when the US is able to get out and run off of opponents' turnovers, they are unstoppable and a joy to watch. However, when they are forced to slow it down in execute in the halfcourt, things become decidely less impressive. This team has not played enough basketball together to have an innate sense of where each other are going to be on the floor, which stagnates ball movement and limits quick ball reversals. As a result of this, the US does not counter well when teams are able to stop the first two options on the initial pick and roll (This offense, like Duke's, is pick and roll heavy). At this point, the instincts of star players in the NBA take over and the rest of the possession often consists of a guard attempting to create something by going one-on-one.

Another problem in the halfcourt is the poor spacing that the US displays. The NBA game is played from the 3 point line in, meaning that NBA wings station themselves on the edge of the line in anticipation of kickouts. Once they receive the ball they are then able to decide whether to shoot or penetrate past an overzealous defender. However, the international line is nearly 3 feet closer than the NBA line and thus creates far less room for wings on kickouts. The US has yet to adjust its positioning to this difference. US wings need to position themselves a foot or so beyond the international line in order to create more space for their jumpshots, as well as better driving lanes for themselves and post up space for their bigs.

Finally, the US still lacks great 3 point shooting. Despite efforts to remedy this problem the selection committee really only gave Coach K one true 3 point shooter (Michael Redd). The rest of the perimeter players on this team are streak shooters, at best. Who's the second best shooter on this team? I'd go with Deron Williams or maybe Kobe Bryant, but even those guys aren't known as pure shooters. There is going to come a game when Redd can't hit a shot or get free and we'd better hope that Bryant or James and Carmelo Anthony are feeling it that evening.

Defense: Here is the team's biggest problem just as it was two summers ago at the World Championships. In the semifinal loss to Greece in Japan, the Americans were completely destroyed by nothing more than a steady diet of high pick and rolls. Once things started to go south, players stopped communicating, started worrying about their assigned men and eventually blew an 11 point second half lead to a team whose most well known player was Sofoklis Schortsanitis. From what I've seen, the pick and roll defense has still not improved tremendously. There doesn't seem to be a definitive plan for how to defend it each time out and too often one opposing player is left wide open as two US defenders smother the other offensive player. Teams that know each other well will find consistent success against the US by running the pick and roll and, at some point, the US is going to have to figure out what their plan of attack is. Do they trap it? Or should they switch and take advantage of the mobile big men at their disposal? Whatever the choice, the US needs to figure out a more effective way to defend basketball's oldest, most basic play.

As bad as the pick and roll defense has been, the US team's biggest problem is the propensity so many of its players have for gambling defensively. Think about it...Kobe, Paul LeBron, Wade, Williams...every one of them likes to play the passing lanes for easy steals. On their respective NBA teams, this is fine. However, teams cannot support two and three players constantly gambling for steals on defense. It results in too many help situations and too many wide open shooters. By refusing to play straight up chest to chest defense, the US is playing right into the hands of its opponents who want nothing more than to create wide open looks for their shooters. This penchant for gambling is the other side of the superstar syndrome that people rarely talk about, but its just as selfish and destructive as the one-on-one offensive play that has so often crippled America's recent international teams. Their has been a lot of talk about commitment to the team by these players in recent weeks but you'll know that they actually believe this when you see five guys talking, helping and playing good, well principled man-to-man defense every time down the floor. If they are able to do that consistently, turnovers will come and they'll come without the wide open momentum killing threes from the corner that Team USA has been giving up at an alarming rate so far in it's exhibition schedule.

Finally, if you're having a little trouble getting excited about this morning's game, allow Marvin to help get you in the mood...

73 comments:

Mark said...

Okay...I'm up, hungover, and ready to blog the shot out of this game.

Mark said...

China's 4 for 4 on threes right now. Why can't we guard the line?

TJ said...

Morning sunshine...can I write check?

Mark said...

Too much gambling on D...already.

Mark said...

Yo...Yao.

TJ said...

Is that Wnag Zhi Zhi's music?

Mark said...

I like China's shorts. I think I might order myself a pair. Does Geoff think that makes me unpatriotic?

Mark said...

My least favorite player on this team? Carmelo...by a mile.

No D, selfish, questionable attitude.

TJ said...

They look like a McDonalds ad...mmmmm. McGriddle...

TJ said...

Doug Collins is already annoying me.

Argentina lost today? Good...fuck you Manu.

Mark said...

They look like the junior high that Greg and I played for.

Mark said...

I thought they were saying that Australia lost today...

TJ said...

Peoples Republic of Melbourne Jr High?

Mark said...

Nope...Manu and the boys lost to Lithuania. Vitas is already drinking...

Mark said...

Herbert Hoover Jr. High, sir.

Go Hawks!

Mark said...

Why is NBC using the NBA on NBC music? Isn't this the Olympics?

Mark said...

If you don't think its been a long time since we won the gold...Antonio McDyess was on the last gold medal winning team.

Mark said...

Good Lord LeBron!

TJ said...

Nice block LeBron...

Mark said...

One of the Chinese players is wearing an Iverson arm sleeve...awesome.

TJ said...

Wake up Henry Kissinger...and was that William Hung to the left of Kissinger?

Mark said...

We are now 1 for 11 from 3...and couldn't look less comfortable in doing so...

Mark said...

Craig Sager looks like a broken man in that NBC polo.

Mark said...

International reffing makes no fucking sense. And yes, we know you played in '72 Doug...give it a rest.

Mark said...

OH MY!!!

LeBron is a fucking highlight reel today.

TJ said...

OK, this is more like it...

TJ said...

Can you imagine the Melo and Phelps conversation?

TJ said...

What do you think, three episodes before that Christian Slater show cuts cancelled?

Mark said...

Halftime thoughts:

- We refuse/cant guard the 3 point line.

- We haven't shot it well from deep. Thats troublesome long term.

- The press was a nice adjustment but that isnt going to work versus teams with good guards like Soain, Greece and Argentina.

- It would be nice to see us working on halfcourt execution ince we establish a doubel digit leads. Instead, it the same shit. We only look fluid in transition.

TJ said...

Flip over to USA...archery baby!

Mark said...

Melo: So you from B'more?

Phelps: Uh...yeah...kinda.

Melo: You watch The Wire? That shit is dope son!

Phelps: Uh...not really. Do you watch The Hills?

Melo: Man...

Mark said...

Water Polo on MSNBC...

Mark said...

Why is Air Pistol shooting an event?

Mark said...

This Nike commercial gets me every fucking time.

TJ said...

Phelps: You wanna swap sports?

Melo: um, no.

Mark said...

That was pretty nasty, Yi.

TJ said...

Doug Collins is drafting LeBron in the 3rd round of his fantasy football draft.

Mark said...

Mmmmm...fantasy football.

Mark said...

We. Can't. Shoot.

TJ said...

Seriously...can someone make a 3 please? It's fucking embarassing.

Mark said...

Angola always qualifies for the Olympics in basketball but they never produce NBA or College level talent. You would think that Nigeria or Senegal would be the African representatives at this point.

I'd like somebody to explain this to me. Does Angola have some great national program that makes the most of its limited resources or are the other African countries so disorganzed that Angola is often the winner by default?

I'm full of African basketball questions.

Mark said...

This team is going to lose a game...and we better hope its in pool play.

TJ said...

Yeah Mike, that's what you always hear first about China - they can sing the shit out of their anthem.

Mark said...

Alright...I was dead wrong about this game being close going into the 4th.

TJ said...

DarkMane just phone GTB HQ to say "Brian Deeeeeeegan"

Mark said...

I swear there's a darkmane clip coming in the second installment of the Olympic basketball posts.

rob said...

pretty damn close to that prediction 'til the us of a ran china out of the gym in the final minutes of the 3rd.

Mark said...

good morning rob.

TJ said...

I bet rob has been wathing that water polo match all morning.

Mark said...

I figured he was busy removing a stump from his neighbor's yard...

rob said...

if you didn't see the goal argentina just scored against australia in men's soccer, you must go find footage of it. a clinic.

and hi mark! i'll be doing some weeding later, but i'll leave the rough stuff to others for now. i did kill some wasps earlier. wiped those aggressive fuckers right out.

Mark said...

Since nobody's guessed, or even attempted to, that picture has nothing to do with USA Basketball.

It is, however, a picture of my new pit bull puppy. That's right, I didn't feel like one pit bull was enough for my house so I figured I'd get a new, young one to spice things up. As anticipated, he's a little, furry ball of asshole.

Zoltan said...

Women's beach volleyball in the rain is entertaining.

rob said...

does puppy have a name? tebo(w)ne, maybe, or percy?

TJ said...

I figured the dog pic was a visual representation of Carmelo Anthony's overall attitude on both ends of the court.

rob said...

i thought the exact same thing. that's a little scary.

TJ said...

Rest in peace Isaac Hayes, you bad mutha-

Whitney said...

That swimming 4x100 relay finish was the best 90 seconds of these Olympics I've caught yet. Randomly flipped over to NBC and happened to catch the last leg and a half. Pretty insane natation.

TJ said...

Someone should give Hannah Storm a sandwich or ten.

TJ said...

What is the point of having Bela Karolyi as a in-studio analyst? He is impossible to understand. They might as well bring in Borat at this point.

Jerry said...

Biggest improvable element is to stop helping off 3 pt shooters. It's just stupid to leave a man with a 21 ft jumpers that's worth 3 points.

I thought Karolyi was awesome. No TV polish = brutally honest interview.

Greg said...

IS CAT NOW!!!

Mark said...

The helping off 3 point shooters is a major problem. We seem to have no discipline in this area though. Many guys will attempt to help on the same play. It is quite often 5 individuals playing defense independently of one another instead of working as a unit to defend.

TJ said...

Jerry, I'll trust you that he's brutally honest, but I still can't make out 69% of what he says.

But it was good to see Greg find a new Olympic buddy.

Jerry said...

Come on. "The power and the persistency"?

"Did not competed"?

"Giant head like beach ball"

This guy is great. And a hearty mustache to boot.

rob said...

synchronized diving? in prime time? really? drag air pistol isn't available?

TJ said...

So, this Michael Phelps kid, he's a pretty decent swimmer, eh?

Mark said...

Yeah, I guess. He's a little selfish though. I mean, he could let some other people win.


In other news, the US Men's gymnastics team has a little momentum on their side right now.

Greg said...

Yeah, they're totally kicking ass.

Mark said...

The Olympics...where you care about a bunch of shit you wouldn't even go watch for free for another four years.

Mark said...

Stupid pommel horse...

Mark said...

Good God, one of you lazy bastards needs to get a post up around here.

amanda young said...

I'll never forget the day this commercial aired for the first time. I had tears of pride. Amanda Vanderpool