USA beat Argentina 91-76 tonight. Kobe did as Kobe often does, starting off hot (15 in the first quarter), and leading the squad in scoring with 27. Melo’ returned from his injury of a bruised heel (that looked scary if you watch his knee lock momentarily), and showed no, I mean absolutely not one, ill effect. He had a dunk off of a head fake where two unlucky Argentinians found their way into the American public eye for all the wrong reasons. It was the nastiest Carmelo jam I have ever seen (a little reminiscent of Amara on Olowakandi too).
So what is there to be worried about? USA didn’t score 100 points this game, that’s worrisome right? Nope, couldn’t care less. Give me wins, show me gold. USA turned the ball over 20 times. Well, the US runs as much as possible, so turnovers will happen, so I’m not worried about that either. What worries me about Team USA is next summer. USA will win this qualifying tournament–that’s been apparent from the beginning, but what happens in Beijing? And I’m not talking about the fact that the European squads will be there, plus Argentina and Brazil at full strength. My worry lies in the US players and their wavering commitment issues.
Each summer players have plenty of reasons not to honor their word. There are weddings, births, injuries, long play-off runs, the list goes on. And now there is the fact that USA returned to dominance in this year’s qualifying tournament. With the unstoppability that USA showed, players like Chauncey Billups or Mike Miller could very easily convince themselves that the results would be the same without their inclusion on the Beijing roster. The fan/patriot in me hopes that all 12 players on the active roster, plus all the others that were cut or chose not to participate this summer, would not possibly pass up the chance to play for a gold medal. But after hearing how Carmelo Anthony (who displays the unquenchable desire to win reminiscent of the Bird/Magic/Michaels of recent NBA history, perhaps moreso than anyone else in the NBA excluding Kobe and KG) had to remind LeBron that he had made a three year commitment to the team, I am not convinced. Yeah yeah LeBron carried the Cavs into the Finals and just became a father–I know. James was also a captain on previous USA team. And aware of the fact that Wade would not be playing this summer. AND part of a team that lost to Greece and failed to bring home the gold.
It’s not the zone defenses, the international rules, the inevitable bad shooting night or two from deep, or the lack of a reliable post scorer that worries me. As displayed in qualifying, with our power lineup, none of that matters. If Coach K is a true coaching guru, he will find a way to do what is becoming increasingly difficult for even his Duke program nowadays–keep his star players from leaving early. If not, this qualifying tournament will have been nothing more than a summer romance–a one time deal that forever leaves you wondering what would have been if the August air had not turned crisp and the leaves had not burned a final fiery farewell.