Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More on USA - Brazil

The more I find out about this game, the more I suspect that my fears about Team USA were justified.

Obviously, it's one game, and we shouldn't over-react. But, I never thought the Worlds were going to be a cakewalk and I've been dubious about the supposed 'fixes' to USA Basketball from the start. If anyone thinks this team is a lock for the gold medal, forget about it. I would accept favorite, but it is far from a foregone conclusion.

Hear are some key stats from the game, or you can look at the box score for yourself. Team USA:
  • was outrebounded 41-25.
  • shot 27-67 (40.3%)
  • took 29 threes, made 10 (34.5%)
  • shot 26-41 from the line
  • committed 21 turnovers (in a 40 minute game!)
  • Wade fouled out in 10 minutes of court time (that's 5 fouls and 2 turnovers in 10 minutes!)
David Thorpe professes to be unconcerned with all of the above in his blog, attributing most of the problems to tired legs (the second game of back to backs after a long trip). He is concerned with a lack of on-court leadership, which I agree could be a problem (this is where the absence of a great, veteran point guard is huge). But I'm also concerned with everything else.

It gets worse. The US benefited HUGELY from some strange calls down the stretch. Heinrich made 4 technical free throws in the final minutes, and on one of those the US was awarded 2 free throws for the original foul, 2 technical free throws AND the ball out of bounds - that's 4 free throws and the ball. They were behind before this possession, ahead after it, won by 4. I didn't see the game, so I can't say whether the calls were justified... but is this team supposed to be winning based on the other team losing their cool and getting T'd up?

Four of Brazil's five starters fouled out of the game, including NBAers Barbosa and Varejao and perennial-projected-lottery-pick Tiago Splitter (Splitter managed to pick up 6 personals in a game were you're DQ'd after 5 - not sure how that went, but it's probably related to those T's). And Team Brazil shot 4-14 from 3, and committed 26 turnovers (that's 47 total TOs in 40 minutes - sorry I missed this gem.)

So, the USA barely eked out a win in a game where:
  • the opponent is not considered a serious medal contender in Japan (ranked 15th)
  • the opponent shot poorly from beyond the arch
  • the opponent's best players were not on the floor at the end
  • the controversial calls favored Team USA down the stretch
These are, none of them, good signs.

Now, you can counter with the tired legs thing, or with the fact that 'Melo missed most the second half due to injury and Wade missed most the second half when he fouled out. But Brazil had to travel to China also, so I'm not buying the tired legs thing. They just wanted it more, and it's entirely possible that other teams in Japan will want it more also. As for 'Melo and Wade...

Well Wade was gawdawful in the 10 minutes he was on the floor, and the way he recklessly drives into zone defenses, without NBA refs to give him the benefit of every call, he's going to have to change his game, or he's going to be in foul trouble. I know that one of his personals was a T for arguing a charge. I'll bet at least 2 others were charges. That's dumb - he needs to be smarter than that.

And are we really this dependent on Carmelo Anthony? Really? A guy the Clippers held to 33%shooting in the playoffs a mere 3 months ago? Seriously?

I've expressed concern in the past about size and about point guard play. Well, as noted we were outrebounded 41-25 in this game, and Chris Paul had 4 assists and 5 turnovers in 25 minutes (Paul looked good against Puerto Rico but has been mediocre at best in China).

It is also interesting to look at the minutes played in a game that was close. Coach K may be tipping his hand (or not - could be something else). Bruce Bowen got a DNP, and certainly I have seen nothing implying that he was hurt or otherwise unable to go. Now, I never really understood Bowen's selection to the team - I mean, I know, he's glue guy, he's a great defender. But he's 35. If the single biggest change in Team USA's approach is to have a group of guys committed for 2+ years, from the Worlds through the Olympics, why select a guy who's 35? Is he really gonna be on the Olympic team in Beijing at 37? As I mentioned before, the whole 'real tryout' thing, the other big change in the selection process, is looking more and more like a joke. The cuts so far - Adam Morrison and Luke Ridnour. Likely to go next - Bruce Bowen. Let them cut a couple NBA All-Stars, and then tell me it's a 'real' try out.

Next up, Lithuania and the trash talking Linas Kleiza (here's the story, and Basketball Jones' imagined smack.)