Staying on basketball for a little bit more, I wanted to take a look at the U.S. Olympic squad. Before I get into it, let me just say that it’s hard for me to handle my country losing at anything. Maybe it’s because I spent the first 9 years of my life in a real “Red White and Blue” part of Texas, and have grandfathers that fought on Destroyers in WWII, or maybe I’m just a sore loser. Either the case, if there’s one team I root for that I don’t accept losing from, it’s the United States Men’s Basketball team.
I know how talented the rest world has become at playing basketball, but this is a sport that is still dominated by Americans at the highest level (NBA). Since 2000 the team has taken a step back mainly due to a lack of participation from most of the elite American ball players. In 2004 we sent what I would’ve considered our 2nd and 3rd teams to the Olympic Games in Greece. The team’s starting line up consisted of Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, LeBron James, Carlos Boozer, and Tim Duncan. Sounds like a good enough squad, but far from our nation’s best. The first team should’ve consisted of a 4 year younger Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, and a still dominate Shaq at center. Now I understand that Garnett, Shaq, and Kidd already have Gold medals from past Olympics, but it’s not like Manu Ginobili will miss a single international competition even though he’s already won Olympic Gold.
This year’s team does have some of the same faces that failed miserably 4 years ago, but with good reason. In the last 4 years LeBron has become a figurehead in the league, Carmelo has led the league in scoring, and although Dewayne Wade has struggled to stay healthy, he’s still the most talented young 2-guard in the world. I like Carlos Boozer, but he replaces a guy I like a lot more, Amare Stoudemire. He’ll be the only guy missing from what should be a once again dominate American squad. Boozer and Stoudemire both were on the 2004 team, but Boozer has gotten older, smarter, and has been an All-NBA selection (2nd and 3rd team) in each year since ’04.
Another guy who’s grown a lot in the last 3 years is Dwight Howard. The starter at center for the U.S. is young and has pride for his country that should keep him coming back for Gold until he retires. We know what starters Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant will bring to the table, but it’s going to be interesting to see these young guns who have truly come into their own play against elite international competition (Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Chris Bosh, Howard, Melo, and James).
I believe one key to sure victory is Michael Redd; no country in this world will come close to defeating this team if he hits his 3’s. With the All-World skill that the 3 U.S. point guards (Kidd, Paul, Williams) have for driving into the paint and dishing out to an open shooter, Redd will get many chances every game to make big shots. And if he hits a majority of them, the games will be over after the 3rd quarter. Oh I guess I forgot to mention, not only do expect victory, but I expect domination. I grew up on the Dream Team; destroying every country they faced 3 Olympics in a row (1992-2000). I still think we’re that talented, and will always be more talented, so I don’t accept any country coming within 10 pts of this squad, or any other squad we put together from now on. LeBron, Melo, Paul, Williams, Howard, Bosh, and Stoudemire seem to have a lot more pride for their country’s basketball heritage than older players (i.e., Shaq, Garnett, McGrady). Like me, the young men in the previous sentence grew up watching the first NBA players participate and dominate in ’92, so hopefully they want what I want, to see this country return to that form.
The only concern I have is with head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s decision to not take Tyson Chandler to Beijing. Chandler played very well last summer for team USA during Olympic qualifying, and without the help of one of the key’s to his success, Chris Paul. CP3 was left off last summer’s roster by coach K, and Paul made it quite clear that he was irked by the decision. But sure enough, after an MVP caliber season, we’ll finally get to see the most talented young PG in Red White and Blue. We already know that Kidd will start, and Paul will come off the bench, I just think he would be better off coming off that bench with a teammate. Chandler is a good defender and rebounder, but becomes a scorer when Paul is on the court. A 7’1” scoring threat sounds pretty good to me. I think Deron Williams could have been left off to make room for Chandler. Williams will be a good asset in China, but Chandler could’ve been a force. The roster may look similar to the one Larry Brown put together 4 years ago, but things should run a lot smoother.