Dream Team v2.0 ?
The young Tri-Captains of Team USA – from left: Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Lebron James roll past the competition in exhibition play
Since basketball north of the border is slightly, I use that term loosely, overshadowed by hockey; I thought a review of the USA Senior Men’s Basketball team was in order (Since they actually made the Olympics, cough-cough Leo Rautins). The question at hand is clearly this: can the USA redeem itself as the top power in Olympic Basketball?
After losing in 2004 at Athens, the “Dream Team” tag had finally diminished to “those ballers from the states” who were unprepared for the rest of the world. Other teams in the FIBAs have made great strides forward, China with the emergence of Yao Ming; Spain with the one-two punch of Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon; Argentina with Andres Nocioni and Manu Ginobili are all contenders this year for the gold. But when you look at Team USA, you are basically looking at the person’s dream fantasy league team. Kobe, Bron, Wade, Melo, CP3, D12… I mean, no one-two punch can beat them right?
The usual story with national teams is that other countries spend years together not only on their national squad but playing with each other in Europe and Russian super leagues; they know each other in and out. Our American team up to this point has relied solely on the fact that if you bring in the stars and plump them down on the court, boom. Gold Medal, no questions asked. Lately, things have been a little different as the globalization of basketball has made the competition step their game up. Since 1992, when MJ and Magic came and put on a show, foreigners were watching and saying, “I want to be like Mike”. Now the foreign players are catching up in both talent and savvy as the USA Men’s Team has not won since the Gold since 2000.
The battle for Gold this year will be very tough for Team USA as their inside presence is down to basically Dwight Howard as the only big who can bang down low, with much of the team’s focus on the point guard situation which has been suspect since 2002. In warm-up exhibition play before Beijing, USA went undefeated; however they were given a scare by an Australian Team that was missing their best player (Center, Andrew Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks, NBA) and was not considered a contender this year for gold.
Three-point shooting and rebounding will be the key to success for any team in the tournament, but the major issue will be if USA can put their individual egos aside and play for the name on the front of the jersey rather than the back.