Thursday, August 14, 2008


I'm leaving this post open for any of our visitors, foreign or domestic, and other writers to write disparaging or critical thoughts about my confidence in Team USA. We'll also use this as a place to leave all mocking comments when Greece uses their teamwork/defense/three-point shooting/knowledge of the international game/humility/amazingly inconsistent facial hair/Spanoulity to crush our arrogant/ignorant/unfundamental/lazy/swimming-watching/dunk-prone team into dust, before being swept away by Pau Gasol and the subtle toughness that he possesses.

I figured "You Suck, Matt!" is too broad of a thread, really.

Oh, and before we go, I haven't really outlined why I'm not concerned about Team USA, and so that may seem like I think it's simply, "We're better, suck it." Not at all. Here's a few reasons:

  • We're not the same defensively as a lot of the other teams, it's true. Why? Because we have the speed to gamble and get back. The Wade/LeBron half court trap is one of the most terrifying things I've ever seen. Kidd mentioned that LeBron is a big asset on defense, and everyone kind of scoffed a bit. Well, guess what: LeBron's biggest strength? Help defense. And that's going to be a huge part. Because as big as Greece's team is overall? LeBron has the overall size to combat that. Add on Williams and Paul who are terrific defenders, and yes, Kidd, because defense may be his last remaining virtue of brilliance, along with the new Wade 2.0 (who we'll get to in a sec), Bosh's improved play, and Mamba as a team leader? I don't necessarily think it's impossible for us to put together an incredible defensive effort. Hey, I didn't mention Melo anywhere in that conversation. Odd.
  • There's a lot of talk about which Kobe should show up. Whether he should go psycho-killer-qu'est-ce-qu'est-ce, or whether he should take a slow ride. Personally, I think he should just get himself into it, and ask, "Wanna help me do it?" One guy going gunner could kill us against a team with teamwork that can score in spurts like Greece (from what I've seen). Nobody needs to force anything, outside of Howard. I think the shooting question is interesting. "We've got to shoot better!" Well, you've gotten the best scorers in basketball on the planet. What, you would rather we get Jason Kapono? Or Bruce Bowen? Come on. The shots are going to fall, and if they don't, I sincerely doubt that's a matter of effort or concentration on Team USA's part.
  • Wade. Lost in LeBron's very LeBron-like performance and Kobe's struggles, along with the slow realization everyone's coming to which is that Carlos Boozer really might not be that good is the unveiling of Wade 2.0. This is not Flash. Or Flash. This is something totally different that has been released on an unsuspecting world. Look at this picture. Now look at this one. The new armor has somehow given him more power without sacrificing speed or agility. And Wade has proven to be the guy who when he hits the floor is 100% in the game. There's not a trace of distraction from him. This means something to him. For Wade, it's almost like it's become personal. It's not just "Oh, cool, a chance to represent my country and expand my marketability." It's grown. Now it's "Everyone has doubted me, written me offe, doubted this team. My country. Sonofabitch must pay." "Warpath" is really the only word for it. And I know, it's only one player, but it's indicative of the attitude this team has taken, but apparently I'm the only one that comes away with that impression.
  • Mainstream media has said that K gave Deron Williams and Paul more time as a backup role to let Kidd rest. I hope this isn't true. Anyone that reads this site knows I'm a huge Chris Paul disciple. But Deron Williams is the best point guard I've seen in international play, and he's got that three point range everyone is obsessed with.
  • The best lineup right now for the US to me is Williams, Wade, Kobe, LeBron, Bosh/Howard. I want to say Bosh, but the sheer size and his preference for drifting takes away from him. Howard desperately needs to prove he can unstoppable for a game, and this would be an excellent one to.
  • I do believe talent matters in basketball. And we have it. Tons of it. We leak it. Out the sides. International compatible talent, too. It's odd, because of all the blame that's been passed around for why we're not playing a completely and totally fullproof, 100% dominant, unbelievably sound game instead of only beating teams by 20+ points, no one has mentioned Coach K. I've been unbelievably unimpressed with his approach. And the lineups seem to be more about him tinkering with things, trying to find someone who's going to blister everyone, rather than working with functional lineups. I haven't seen anyone (outside of Melo) who hasn't looked committed to the task at hand. And there are flashes of guys looking like they do in the playoffs. Williams, Wade, and LeBron in particular. No suprise those are the three guys that look like they're playing best.

It's also come to my attention that some may think that I have a thing against the Greeks. This could not be further from the truth. I'm actually a big fan of Greek culture, both ancient and modern, as well as their music and cuisine. One of the most fun nights I've had this year was going with a large group I organized to a Greek restaurant in Alexandria, VA where I basically asked them to show and tell me everything about Greek cusisine. It was amazing. The people are obviously far more than a cuisine, but seeing as how I haven't gotten the chance to visit, I just wanted to make it known that I actually quite enjoy the grape leaf delicacies and don't have anything against Greek or its people. Or anyone outside of Vince Carter, actually.

I bring this up because it's striking to me that in this arena, I'm the one portraying and defending a certain amount of nationalism. Politically, I'm about as big of a proponent of (responsible) globalization as you'll find in the common, non-politically centered realm, and I've got a rather large disgust for American arrogance on the global stage. It's not that I entered the Olympics thinking we would be a lock. On the contrary, I was profoundly concerned. It's been the watching of both Team USA and the Greek and Spanish hordes coming to destroy us and lay waste to our feeble confidence that has led me to this current position. I expected to be wowed by the Greek's defensive intensity and playmaking ability. Instead I was mildly disgusted at how effective their tactics were against inferior teams, and how easily Spain handled them. I expected to see Spain and marvel at the pinpoint accuracy and dread bombardment that awaited us. Instead, I saw Jose Calderon and JCN looking much like they do the rest of the time. Good, great in spots, but not amazing. Then I saw a US team that has the look of a tiger toying with its prey, but still flexing its muscles when it saw the opportunity, and quietly and without brashness making it known "We're ready. You'll see. We'll show you." (Sorry, Dark Knight quotes have been slipping into my daily conversations. I think I scared my Mom earlier in an email about dinner plans.

So I decided to embrace this position. Yeah, we're going to win. I don't expect an epic blowout, nor do I expect it to be close. And as KD is big on mentioning, in an NCAA tournament-like setting, anything can happen. But those things can't be accounted for. If the US shoots 25%, it's because we had one of those days. Not because we didn't try hard enough, or didn't have enough skill. And that will be a credit to the Greek defense. But do we need to credit them? They already defeated us, didn't they? I don't think they need our validation in the form of fretting to show that we're concerned. We can be concerned as fans and pundits, and that's fine. And I think it's entirely possible that anyone can beat us, if not Greece or Spain then Lithuania (who I'm actually worried about) or some worse team. That's basketball. You can always be critical of weaknesses and concerned about winning. I'm just choosing not to. We're going to be ready, we're going to be good, and we're going to win.

Just wait.

We'll show you.

Now, commence rational criticism and flaming!

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