Friday, August 08, 2008

Things the US Basketball team HAS to do if it wants to win Gold...Part 2 of 2

Part 2 of the dual post collaboration between Page 3 and P.O.L.R Express. See the world's view HERE.
By Steven LaiHing for Page 3

Best players in the world? Check.
Best Coach? Check.
Most Athletic Players in the World? Check.
Well funded and trained staff? Check.
Gold Medal Lock? NO.

If there was one bad thing to come out of the 1992 Olympic Basketball Domination by the Superfriends (oops, I mean the Dream Team) it was that it forced the rest of the world to look at themselves realistically and work on its game, while giving the American Basketball system an overinflated image of itself. We breezed to wins in 1996 ,and even though we almost lost in 2000, hey, Vince Carter cleared a 7 footer Frenchman's head (whatever happened to Frederick Weis?) and we took the gold. Fast forward to 2008 and we have an EIGHT year medal drought. Unheard of and unacceptable. So what does the Redeem team have to do to make things right and bring home the gold?

1) Defend the Pick and Roll and close out Shooters.
Actually, defend everything, but especially the pick and roll. If we don't effectively recognize when a team is running a pick and roll we will be completely taken apart by the best teams in this tournament. The beauty of the pick and roll is that it forces a normally good defender into a moment of uncertainty, and requires active communication between defensive teammates on instantly making the switch if necessary to who ever might be open. The difference with the pick and roll here versus in the NBA is that most International big men are more like Dirk Nowitzki and less like Dwight Howard. These guys can SHOOT. And if you give them half a second, they will pull up and drain 3's and long jumpers repeatedly. That's not a good look for a team like the US. One thing that became apparent in the China game is that we have a couple defenders (Wade) who like to gamble on defense and leave the shooter open to go help stop penetration. DON'T GAMBLE. That's the entire point of the international game; have an active guard penetrate and kick out to a wide open teammate to take advantage of a collapsing defense. Same goes for our wingmen (Lebron) collapsing in to help on a big man like the monster the Greek's have at center, Sofoklis Schortsanitis (Is he Escalade?!). It is far better to take a relatively contested 2 scored on you then to allow repeated open 3's. Especially with the mockery for a 3 point line they have here in Beijing.

2) Hit Free throws.
We have been downright horrible at free throw shooting, with no game better then 75% as a team. Like it or not, we aren't going to easily blow out the best of these teams, and sooner or later, we are either going to make our freethrows or catch a Memphis loss (remember the Final Four?)

3) Hit open 3's (and run and gun whenever you get the chance!)
This one is easy to remember. MAKE YOUR 3's! Or at least hit enough of them to keep the defense honest and out of that God-Forsaken matchup zone D. The quickest way to grind our high speed run and gun offense to a halt is to turn us into the Hoosiers and make us into jump shooters. They are telling you that they don't fear your jumper! Make it rain. Hit enough of them, and they will open you up for more drives to the basket, or they will commit basketball suicide as a team and switch to man to man defense. This also means that you all need to be smart enough to get it into Redd's hands and to encourage your best shooters to keep shooting. Don't fall into the trap of settling for jumpers when you could just as easily penetrate and get a better shot. Make no mistake: we are at our best when we are able to push the tempo and get to the basket.

4) Walk the fine line between confidence and classy and "Ugly American and Cocky."
These foreign guys are cocky. And they want to beat you. They want to beat you badly, because you know what? You are the best. Basketball Giants.You have been the best for a long time. And now they have gotten better to the point that they feel they can test you. It means something magical for them to beat you, gives their country's sports program validation and confidence.They have changed the international game to accent their strengths and limit yours. They kept American Pros from playing for 50 years while they sent professionals and when they finally allowed our pros to play in '92, this happened.
So don't let these guys punk you. Players on the Spanish team were caught on camera as they were leaving for Beijing calling friends and telling them that they were going to bring home the gold, and they were going to beat the US by 30. Smile, shake hands, and then DESTROY them. Don't lose your cool when bad calls and trash talk happens, play harder.

5) Remember who you are playing for and don't take anyone for granted. (BUT WIN!!)
There is only so much preparation you can have. You know what you need to work on and you know what teams can give you problems. Now its about execution. No pressure, the entire country is watching you and hoping (expecting) you to go to these games and bring home the gold. Call it the burden of being American Sports Superstars, your country's expectations aren't just for you to win, it's for you to win convincingly. If the US people had their way, you all would win each game playing your bench for the second half by 30 and games would look like the globetrotters. Don't get sucked into the hype. Play for your country with pride, and respect whoever you are playing, be it Angola or Argentina, China or Spain. In the words of President George W. Bush before your first game against China "You all are the best in the world. Play the right way, do what you are supposed to do, and bring home the Gold to the U.S."

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