Team USA looks respectable and dare I say….dominant again?

4 08 2006

Last night I watched the USA-Puerto Rico game over ESPN2 and what I saw during the first quarter and half of the second quarter reminded me of USA’s failures during the last World Championship and their bronze finish during the 2004 Olympic games. But then something happened…in a blink of a eye they pushed it into overdrive and totally dominated a shell-shocked Puerto Rican team that was totallly outclassed offensively and defensively for the remainder of the game, showing a prowess that didn’t exist in the last two team USA incarnations. By opening the court up on offense and locking down on defense by unleashing a full-court press that took advantage of the US’s freakish quickness and length, they ran their opponents out of their shorts. Scratch that-they literally took their shorts and ran away with them. At least for one night, they performed like the Team USA’s of the early-mid 90’s and proving that their previous scrimmage in which they also blew out Puerto-Rico wasn’t a fluke. Team USA’s coach, Mike Krzyzewski  nailed it right in the head with his assessment I think:

“Puerto Rico played a great first quarter and they made adjustments to go against our pressure defense. They were really good,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Then our guys made some adjustments, not overextending themselves, and we were really good.”

   Yes. Really good. This version of Team USA does not have most of the NBA’s most dominant players, with the exception of Wade, Lebron, Kobe, and maybe Chris Paul and Elton Brand to an extent there are no superstars on this roster and it’s hard to say whether or not if this team had the likes of Shaq, KG, TD, and T-Mac if they would’ve done better or worst. But there is one thing that is plain to see, this version has put the emphasis on team and it really showed. In the first half, the Chris Paul-Lebron hookup on a mini fastbreak symbolized what I thought the past team USA’s should’ve looked like and their swarming defense was what I was expecting from the Larry Brown led team (but seeing what he did with the Knicks, I’m actually not surprised now that he couldn’t gel together his Olympic roster, he’s a great coach but not a great player’s coach I think). Granted, this is team Puerto Rico which ranks 11th in FIBA’s ranking, it has to be noted that this is the same team that beat the US in 2002, the first US loss with NBA Players on the roster.  Admitingly, I didn’t expect the team to play the defense they showed in such a short span of time they’ve been together, the offense could be more polished but if this continues going according to plan and if the U.S. returns to their former dominance, coach K should be hailed as the savior of USA basketball. George Karl and Larry Brown will have to thank him for that.