I can’t watch. I really can’t. I’m old school when it comes to my favorite sport—basketball. I love fundamental, blue-collar hoops. That’s why I’m a huge San Antonio Spurs fan. In my opinion, the Spurs play the game the way it should be played. You’ll never see me show up at Rucker Park. You won’t find me watching And 1 Mix Tapes on YouTube. For me, basketball needs to be played a certain way. Otherwise, it’s a waste of my time. I only watched five total events during the Rio Olympics. They included the 100m dash (men’s and women’s), 200m dash (men’s and women’s), 400m hurdles (women’s), 4X100m (men’s and women’s), and shot put (Yes, shot puck. What can I say? It was on before the men’s 200). I haven’t watched one minute of the USA Men’s Basketball Team. Again, I love basketball. I just don’t love the way our national team plays Olympic basketball. They are trash. The team barely won nail-biters against Australia, Serbia, and France this summer. One of the stars of the Serbian National Team? Bogdan Bogdanovic—who has yet to play one minute of NBA basketball. So what gives? Why is Team USA Basketball trash this year? I have at least three reasons.
1. NBA players rarely see zone defenses.
Most NBA games are man-to-man from start to finish. Even with the rule change years ago for defensive violations, you’ll rarely see an NBA coach use a zone defense. International play is the total opposite. Many national teams prefer zone defense. This kills the customary isolation plays many NBA teams run.
2. There are too many alphas and no betas.
From top to bottom, this team reads like an NBA All-Star Game roster. That’s cool in February, but not every four years on a global stage. You think Serbia’s going to let you hot dog the way you do in All-Star games? Not happening. They are out to prove their worth against the greatest players on the planet. Team USA is full of white collar dudes. They need blue-collar guys who don’t mind doing the dirty work. I would have loved to see guys like Andre Drummond, Kawhi Leonard, and Hassan Whiteside on the team. Instead, I get Kyle Lowry, DeMarcus Cousins, and Harrison Barnes. None of those players know the definition of defense.
3. Team USA thought it would be easy.
There’s nothing worse than a team that thinks it’s a lock to win it all. Wait, didn’t the ’92 Dream Team have the same attitude? Yes, but the distinction is the Dream Team had two of the best defenders of all-time on that team. And Chuck Daly was a defensive-minded coach, constantly reminding them why they were there—to annihilate teams. This year’s team received wake up calls in every round with single-digit victories.
Update: Yesterday, this team won the gold medal game in convincing fashion. Though I think the win is potentially damaging for the future of USA Basketball. DeAndre Jordan already said winning gold is better than winning any NBA title. Sounds very Clipper-ish to me. Worse than that, winning gold would mean we might continue to pick the “best” players in the NBA, rather than picking a balanced team that reveals what USA Basketball is all about. Don’t believe me? Just ask Isaiah Thomas, who was left off that ’92 team. No shade. I think Thomas was a great basketball player. He just didn’t fit what that team set out to do—win convincingly.
I do have hope that 2020 will be different. Because help is on the way. Greg Popovich is slated to take over the coaching duties for Team USA in 2020. If anyone can return the team to its past dominant glory, it’s Pop. And I can’t wait!