Team USA men’s basketball has a problem.
I actually believe they may have several problems and it’s the accumulation of these that resulted in consecutive losses to Nigeria and Australia.
This isn’t the Dream Team. I don’t say that to imply that this squad doesn’t have the talent of Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley, though they don’t. The current roster of Team USA, even without the players currently in the NBA Finals, is a really good collection of basketball talent.
What the Dream Team had that this squad doesn’t was the awe of opponents, a desire to play defense, leadership and some size.
Yes, they had better talent as well, but I don’t think that’s the problem here. I also don’t believe the reason we took bronze in 2004 was because Allen Iverson, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Tim Duncan weren’t good enough basketball players. That team had the same issues this one does.
Thanks to the success of the Dream Team and former NBA Commissioner David Stern, the game is global now. The days of international players becoming emotionally overwhelmed by the experience of playing against an NBA opponent are long gone.
Most international teams have NBA players on it which means most international players play and practice against NBA players more regularly.
The Dream Team averaged 117 points per game so it’s understandable to think of them for their ability to get buckets but people forget how many of those points came in transition. International talent admittedly wasn’t as good then as it is now but those guys played hard defense and held opponents to 36.5 percent shooting through the games. The Dream Team may have averaged 117 points per game but opponents averaged 73.
I mentioned the lack of size above and that’s something that is missing for sure. Kevin Durant is the tallest player on this team and he and Damian Lillard led Team USA in rebounds against Australia. That’s a problem folks.
I’m not saying this squad needs a pair of seven footers like Patrick Ewing and David Robinson, but they would certainly benefit from added post depth.
While size is a problem, the biggest issue I see is a lack of leadership. Maybe it’s the transition from Coach K to Coach Pop or maybe it’s a lack of leadership amongst the players, but they don’t seem focused during the game and don’t appear angry or frustrated after the loss.
For a group that has combined to lose as many exhibition games in a week as they have lost in three decades, they don’t look stressed.
Then again, maybe this is all happening because it’s a group of millionaires staying and playing in Las Vegas. Let’s just hope.
David Friedman is a long time sports writer and lifelong believer that BLM. David can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.