Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Perfect Strangers

Winning or abject embarrassment. Those are the only options #GoodLuck

So a weird thing keeps happening on America’s romp to the gold medal in men’s basketball.  These cats keep teetering on the edge of losing. After the Australia game that was a spirited competition throughout, the big test for the team looked to be over (at least for pool play).  Instead, the ten point margin of victory (a bit misleading given the closeness of the majority of the contest) has proven to be their largest in the past three games. Since then, they’ve beaten Serbia and France by three points apiece.

Obviously the international basketball landscape has changed a ton since the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. The NBA employs a large contingent of people from other continents, so the days of the USA jersey making opponents faint like Scarlett O’Hara at the BET awards are done. Instead, the US team has faced two or more current/former NBA players in four of the team’s five opening games (get it together, Venezuela).

The USA program was supposed to be radically different as well.  Following the Assault in Athens (best I could do, there should be some sort of alliteration for that squad) the entire domestic basketball landscape was altered to foster more internationally-friendly basketball teams that are more adept at playing together.  This team is a bit of a throwback.  Despite having multiple wings and interchangeable players, there are few traditional point guards (Kyle Lowry is the most experienced in this regard, and if you saw him in the playoffs…yea).  Moreover, due to some late-ish scratches, the team isn’t as talented as recent ones, hasn’t played as much together at all.

Perhaps even more interesting than the rocky road the US team is currently traversing, the underscoring of the importance of chemistry—and the contrast of on-court vs off-court chemistry.  Anyone that has seen the Snapchat or social media of the team members (look at me not making a Draymond Green joke), can see that they get along.  But on court they still look like talented players from disparate teams.  If this team does end up losing it’ll be because of a lack of communication on the defensive end (watching one play after another get beaten on backdoor cuts, or simple pick and roll defense getting cut to ribbons has been rough) or offensively going 1-on-5.

But hey, if you think they’ll lose you can get some good odds on all the other teams in the tournament. Because what’s more American than finding a way to make money in a tough situation?

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