This iteration of the USA men’s senior basketball team had a good plan, a good coach and seemingly good choice of players. They blew Puerto Rico and China off the court in their first 2 exhibition games before their World championship stint. They seemingly had all the right parts clicking upon entering their exhibition game with Brazil today and in the first quarter, they were set to roll over the competition again…..
….But something happened. or rather some-“things” happened.
1. Carmelo Anthony got injured with a hyperextended knee. Even if he was Team USA’s leading scorer, the injury wasnt a big deal considering they still had other big name guys who can carry the load but check out the next reason…
2. Wade is a disappointment and Lebron looked lost without the transition game. Wade is an excellent NBA player but his style is not a good fit for the international game. Watch the game again and notice how he vainly tried to attack the basket: crossover here, crossover there and then jumping up to pass at the last second to another guy. i mean, where is the Dwayne Wade that had Dallas up in arms? Where is that jumper that we often saw in the NBA Finals? i know they needed to work within the system of Coach K but DWade (and Lebron for that matter) has to take and make his shots from the perimeter. Lebron James was largely ineffective against Brazil, the Americans werent able to push the ball as they would have liked due to Brazil’s tenacity and as such James’ game was limited to shooting pathetic jumpshots. Melo was the only one not afraid of shooting the midrange jumper but then he got injured.
3. Brazil decided to fight back with everything they had. Down by double digits for most of the first half, Brazil knew that the USA was beatable. They werent intimidated by the Americans, they had nothing to lose. So they scratched and clawed their way back, even leading with a few minutes left on the quarter. Brazil’s Varejao and Barbosa did most of the damage, not only by scoring but by breaking the USA’s defense down with excellent passing and defense.
4. Brazil had better communication and passion. Notice that Brazil huddles together like a team that had spent years playing with each other and they play with their emotions mixed in. Team USA was following Coach K’s instructions to the letter: “Dont make an incident”. They dont argue calls, you wont see even a trace of determination of their faces, they just looked like they were going through the motions. Again, watch the replay and just look at Varejao: you can see he wanted to win this game just by looking at his facial expression. How i wish Lebron or Dwayne Wade had the “look”, you know THE LOOK. Magic had it, so did Bird. Definitely MJ had it too. The look that says “Im not letting this team lose no matter what”.
I think this game is a good adjustment game for Coach K. It was a good idea to play some of the better teams in the world and expose Team USA’s holes now than for it to crop up say, in the medal round of the World Championships. Win the championship and they gain an olympic berth, lose and its qualifying time again next year.