If there is one thing to take away from Team USA’s game against China, it’s that the intensity displayed by Coach K’s squad is the most promising thing I have seen from USA Basketball in the last six years.
Was it a perfect game? Not by any means. Jason Kidd continues to be turnover prone in his older age. Kobe Bryant was out of rhythm (his first jumper hitting the side of the backboard a la Richard Jefferson of the Bad-Dream Team). Melo never got involved on offense (neither on his accord or the rest of the team’s). Redd spent too much time on the bench while the rest of the team spent too much time missing 3’s. And the entire team went for too many perimeter steals, which led to some uncontested looks for China.
But none of that mattered; the will to dominate was apparent. Surely the fact that they were playing the home team in front of a packed, pro-China/pro-USA house helped keep the energy level up. China’s decision to try and play uptempo with them early on helped as well.
Regardless, the old fire was there.
You could see it in LeBron’s continuous attacks on the rim for lay-ups, and-one’s, and inhuman slams. You could see it in Kobe’s two-handed dunk on two unprepared Chinese defenders. You could see it in Paul’s everything. Well, you can always see it in Chris Paul, be still.
Team USA won’t escape the preliminary round without a struggle, not with Greece on Thursday, Spain on Saturday, and Germany on Monday. But for the first time since the last time, I feel reassured that regardless of the opponent, Team USA will bring it from the opening tip until the lead is comfortable.
With the talent of the current roster, that level of intensity makes them notably better than even Spain and Argentina.
The challenge of being mentally read has been met. Now, the next challenge is remaining so for Angola tomorrow. After that, the competition should make the desire to win a non-issue.
Tags: 2008 Olympics, Angola, Beijing Olympics, Carmelo Anthony, China, Chris Bosh, Coach K, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Dywayne Wade, Germany, Greece, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Spain, Summer Olympics, Team USA Men's Basketball