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June 23, 2008
by Jeff Briggs
Team USA was announced today, and there are no surprises, with most of the players having already been decided last week or earlier. This latest edition of Team USA will be looking to rebound from a disappointing bronze-medal finish in Athens in 2004 (first time not getting gold with NBA players) and another 3rd place finish at the 2006 FIBA World Basketball Championships. The 2006 team had the same coaches, and six of the same 12 players. In last years qualifying FIBA Americas Championship, Team USA (with eight players from the Bejing Olympic roster) managed to get back on track, and win the tournament.
Clearly, USA is the favorite to win the gold in Bejing, and anything less would be considered a total failure. But this roster has its problems. As Chris Sheridan points out in this report, Team USA has decided to go with only three true "big men" (Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, and Carlos Boozer) on the roster (and Howard is the only true center). USA will hope to beat their opponents with superior speed and athleticism, giving up significant size against several potential medal-round opponents. The plan is to start Carmelo Anthony at the 4, and give him a majority of the minutes there. Will he be able to D-up AK-47, Walter Herrmann, Marc Gasol, or some of the other international big men?
In the 2004 Olympics, the US neglected to bring any pure shooters to Athens, and other teams were able to exploit this weakness. Sheridan thinks there could be similar results with this team and its lack of bigs:
The members of Team USA's brain trust made it easy then for the rest of the world to devise a defensive game plan, and they're doing it again by being too biased toward trying to impose their will and exploit their advantages in speed and athleticism.
I know if I was coaching a team that could attack the USA with a large and physical front-court, I would do just that, and try to get Howard and crew into foul trouble. I predict a win for the USA, but I'm scared about the roster. For America to come away with a win in these Summer Games, I think they are going to have to want
to win as much as some of the countries do, and to this point I haven't seen the same type of desire on the international level from the US stars as Manu Ginobili showed in Athens.
I hope that Coach K and crew know what they are doing, and we see USA back where they belong: on the medal stand with gold around their neck.