Wednesday, August 20, 2008

USA Basketball Update

I haven't been able to watch a whole lot of down here. Local coverage more often that not shows althletes walking to their events, qualifying races, or empty fields rather than basketball. Frankly, the coverage has been rather pathetic. But I suppose that's to be expected. Colombia isn't exactly an Olympic power.

That being said, I saw most of the US-Spain game and I'm assuming US-Argentina will be on (at least the Argentinian sports channel will show it). By and large, my predictions have come true. The US team destroyed the competition in the preliminary round and today proceeded to blow out Australia in the 2nd half (it was a "close" 12-point lead at the half). And, even with the evident weaknesses of this team (lack of size, so-so 3-point shooting, defensive lapses), for the most part, our huge advantage in athleticism has won the day. I stand by my argument that no team with weak point guard play is going to beat the US.

Argentina should be an interesting challenge. I watched one of their pre-Olympic friendlies against Poland, a game in which they almost (and should have) lost. It was a pathetic display of basketball futility in which neither team shot well (Poland is not known for basketball prowess) and in which Argentina won by a slim margin after taking the lead in the final 2 minutes. Of course, Manu Ginobili did not play and he is their only elite player, so that is somewhat explainable.

I have yet to see Argentina play in the Olympics (with Ginobili), so it's hard to predict how the US will do against them. But I have to think it won't be that close. Several factors work in our favor. First, their PG play is woefully inadequate (Pablo Prigioni).

Second, their talent level suffers a steep drop off after Delfino, Ginobili, Nocioni, and Scola. In fact, aside from Ginobili, the rest of those guys are mid-level talents that are career role players. Take Delfino, for example. His career high in the NBA is 9.9 points/game and with 4.4 rebounds. He can stroke it from outside, but that's true for most everyone at this stage. Nocioni, on the other hand, is best known as a bruiser who can shoot, but more than anything, he is slow, slow, slow. And I think we've seen enough of Scola after one season in Houston to conclude that he's little more than a fairly good rebounder with limited offensive skills (think a skinny Tractor Traylor).

The conclusion of this is not to suggest that this team is terrible. Obviously, they are quite good. They play well together, they have great chemistry, and set roles. No, the conclusion is that an extraordinary offensive burden falls on Ginobili because the rest of the team is simply not that offensively gifted. This didn't matter that much against Greece (who they beat by 2) but against the US, a team that can afford to sic the Koberman on Ginobili and still have plenty of offensive punch, it will matter. Indeed, the only chance Argentina has to beat the US is if Ginobili goes off for his normal 25 and one of the other guys matches him. But even that probably won't be enough. Ginobili had 24 against Greece and Delfino had 23 and they still only scored 80 points total. Bottom line, you're not beating the US with 80 points.

Third, the US team is probably the fastest team to ever play in the Olympics. If you want to beat them, you've got to stop the fast break, get the ball over the half court line quickly, and get into your offensive sets as soon as possible to exploit the US lack of size down low and their relatively pourous pick-and-roll defense. That's a tall order. Especially when your big guys (Nocioni, Scola, and what the hell, Oberto) have the lateral quickness of a the average tree sloth. Unless something has changed in the last 3 weeks for Argentina, I think they will be hard pressed to be competitive for 40 minutes.

None of this is to suggest that the US team is going to walk over Argentina. That hasn't been our style to date (excluding weak ass teams like Angola and German). Instead, the US generally plays a little tight to start games, almost as if they're feeling out the opponent, and then, once they've got their rythm on both sides, they go on a big run and put the game away. I expect something similar to happen on Friday.

The only wild card, the only factor that makes me nervous, is that Manu Ginobili is one of the top players in the world. He does things that very few can do and as we saw last season in the NBA, if you let him get going, he can kill you down the stretch. I'm assuming Kobe isn't going to let that happen (the Spurs-Lakers rivalry extends to Beijing). But if the game is on and I get to watch it, that's what I'll be looking for. The tone of our defense on Ginobili early will likely tell us what we need to know about the eventual outcome.

Final Note: I hadn't realized just what a badass Chris Bosh was until this Olympics. I haven't seen him play in awhile but wow, he's awesome. It's incredible to think that he's only 24. Right now, I'd say he's easily the 4th best power forward in the NBA and could even move up on Amare (you know, because Bosh plays D). Anyone who suggests that Boozer is better is just a damn fool.



Post a Comment

<< Home

Political Favorites
Guilty Pleasures
My Global Position