Monday, August 28, 2006

Worlds Update

I came across something you don't see very often - a salient article about basketball on one of the big sports web sites. SI.com's Chris Mannix actually makes pertinent observations and provides a hint of thoughtful analysis regarding the US team's showing so far in the World Championships. Sure, he's got the pre-requisite hyperbole throw in as well (Argentina is Jordan to our Ehlo? Really?), but what are you gonna do? (Interestingly, the implication that Ginobili's Argentina has 'owned' the US in International Competition is flat wrong. Sure, Argentina won by 7 in 2002 in Indy and by 8 in 2004 in Athens, but the US destroyed them in Olympic Qualifying in 2003, winning twice overall and winning the Championship of that Qualifying Tournament by 30 points.)

Mannix is spot on about the total lack of a half-court offense for the US. If the pressure defense is producing steals, then maybe you can outscore a team on fast break points. But against well-coached teams with good guard play, those fast break points are going to be a lot harder to come by. In 6 games so far (5 in pool play, and then the round of 16 against Australia) basically only Italy qualifies as a 'well-coached team with good guards' and look what happened against them. (Puerto Rico OUGHT to qualify, but as Jerry Sloan will attest, you never know what you're going to get with Carlos Arroyo.)

The US is lucky to be in the bracket they are in. As good as Nowitzki is, Germany does not have the guard play to handle the US pressure, so I don't expect Germany to compete, despite the Diggler.

After that it gets dicey. The semi-final opponent will probably be Greece, and they will play the same style as Italy, but with significantly more talent on the floor. And both Argentina and Spain (one of which should be the finalist from the other bracket) have great guards, great talent, and solid game plans.

Why is it that we are incapable of running a half-court set? I realize that 3 weeks is not a lot of time, but frankly we could play THIS offense (try to run and if it isn't there give the ball to someone for an iso) with zero prep time. Hasn't every one of these players run the Motion offense at SOME point in their lives? How about we put that in?

Standing around watching Carmelo Anthony shoot threes (which he is hitting at a significantly higher rate than he EVER has in his career, so I'm waiting for the shoe to drop), watching Dwyane Wade drive relentlessly (where he picked up about 4 charges a game against stingy zones in Athens), watching the rest of the team spot up (as if we want our Gold Medal hopes hinging on a Shane Battier three)... well, it doesn't make me feel like USA Basketball is on the right track.

It doesn't mean they won't win. Argentina is certainly NOT Jordan to our Ehlo. But I'd feel a lot better if, as Mannix says, someone would set a screen, or even move, away from the ball.