Monday, June 23, 2008

Dream Team?

The United States has fallen on hard times as of late in basketball competition world wide. You can probably trace this all the way back to the original Dream Team of 1992. That was the year that 11 NBA players (and 1 college player) took the world by storm in winning gold in Barcelona.

That team, of course, consisted of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley and Christian Laettner.

The original Dream Team won each of their games by an average of over 40 points, en route to an easy gold medal victory. In doing so, however, that team may have inadvertently affected the coming years of Olympic basketball competition - you see, other countries started to model themselves after that team. Everyone wanted to be the next Jordan or Barkley. And thus, other countries started to get better.

Now don't get me wrong - I believe that the United States still harbors the best basketball talent in the world. But, getting that talent onto one team and allowing that talent to gel in time for the Olympics - pretty impossible.

The NBA season ends in June and starts again in October. For a player to play for the Olympic team, they are giving up their offseason - their time to heal. So for the past few years, the best of the best have been unwilling to do that.

Enter Jerry Colangelo, who had grown tired of the U.S. performance in the Olympics. He started a national team program - inviting a number of U.S.-born players to participate and be selected to the various teams that the U.S. will participate in, including the Olympics. This way, the stock is always deep, the players get to know each other - and no one is being added at the final minute.

Another thing that has been hurting the United States' performance has been the exclusion of the role player on rosters. Signing up 12 superstars and asking them to change their games is a difficult task, but bringing players that are known specifically for their defense, rebounding or passing could help the U.S. get over the hump.

Today, the 12-man roster was announced and here they are:

Photos (L-R): Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz), Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors), Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic), Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks), Deron Williams (Utah Jazz), Michael Redd (Milwaukee Bucks), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons).

I like the roster, but my one complaint is this: the European game is driving, dishing and shooting 3's and of the 12 players listed above Michael Redd is the lone player is called a 3-point specialist. On the U.S. American Games team, Mike Miller was also available - but, this may be nothing - just wanted to point it out.

A complaint I have heard, however, is the team's lack of inside players. This team currently has three point guards, six combo guard/forwards and three bigs. An injury to any of those players could be serious, but again, in the international game bigger players mostly play on the outside. It's a more finesse game, so losing size for speed and shooters is not a big problem in my eyes.

So there you have it. The new U.S. Olympic Basketball Team. On paper they should restore the United States to gold, but we have thought that in the past as well. We can only wait and see.

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