For a year I have been worried. Beginning the moment that Team USA finished up the FIBA Olympic Qualifier last summer, doubts crept into my mind.
What if a key player gets injured (LeBron), convicted (Melo), engaged (all of them — they’re NBA players)? What if Colangelo makes an asinine roster mistake? What if any superstar attitudes that were pushed selflessly to the side during the qualifier emerge during the Olympics? And worse: what if none of this matters because the international competition is simply too good now?
After only six games, only 10 days, though, I have put all fear behind me.
With Argentina waiting tomorrow morning (10:15 am ET, USA network I’m assuming), I am almost unable to even imagine a scenario where Team USA does not walk away with the W and march onward to the gold medal game. The team is playing too well, their defense (save for some occasional slap your forehead lapses) too scrappy, their desire too fierce.
More importantly, Argentina is a squad full of NBA players. Trust me, this is a good thing. Manu Ginobli and Oberto play on the Spurs — a team that has been playing long into the post season for numerous years now. That’s built in scouting right there. Additionally, Kobe and Prince have both matched up against Ginobli in important games before, so they know what to expect.
Likewise for Nocione and, to a lesser extent, Scola. Both played on playoff teams recently and are good enough to have garnered some attention.
Then there’s Delfino. Delfino… well, whatever, he’s just Delfino.
The point is, Team USA has performed well against all the teams they have faced in these Olympic games with NBA talent. They beat China (two current, one former, one future NBAer) by 31, Spain (four current, one former, two future) by 27, and Germany (two current) by 49.
Meanwhile, they “only” beat Angola and Greece by 21 and 23 respectively, neither of whom has a current NBA player on their squad.
This isn’t a knock on the USA scouting staff. It’s simply easier to get up for a game against a rival, and it’s easier to play against opponents that you have game familiarity with.
With the final goal so close to being realized and the team rolling, Argentina should prove to be nothing more than a turnstile for Team USA: an obstruction offering little resistance, and the only thing between USA and a shot at gold.