LAS VEGAS - JULY 24: Kevin Durant #5 of the 2010 USA Basketball Men's National Team looks to drive ahead of teammate Lamar Odom #14 during a USA Basketball showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 24 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Don't get too excited about winning so handily against a team that many suspect will be a medal contender next week in Turkey. This doesn't mean any more than when the Clippers beat the Lakers in pre-season. The Greek team will look totally different if Team USA sees them in the medal round. All those rebounds, all those steals - they're going to dry up as Team Hellas steps up their intensity.
Still, it did illustrate where Team USA's advantage lies, and it's in quickness and athleticism. It's going to be a pretty simple formula in Turkey. If opponents can turn the game into a half court affair, they may have a chance. If the Americans can force turnovers and get out and run, I don't think anyone can play with them.
In the first game where he wasn't worrying about his spot on the roster, Eric Gordon led Team USA with 18 points. He also had two steals, and could have been credited with more than that by my reckoning. He probably had eight deflections on defense. EJ was feeling it from the moment in checked in, getting a steal and a tough finish on his first sequence (he should have gone to the line for the and one as he was also hit pretty hard on the shot). He finished 4 for 7 on three pointers, while Stephen Curry went 0 for 4 from beyond the arc, probably cementing Gordon's position as the first shooter off the bench when the tournament starts. Of course that won't count for much - Coach K has shown a willingness to go with the hot hand, whoever it is, so if EJ comes in and misses his first couple shots, Steph will get his chance soon enough.
Frischilla Fraschilla, who has been a big supporter of EJ's value to the team from the beginning, had an interesting take on the departure of Rajon Rondo. Basically, he felt like Rondo had the potential to be a disruptive force, as an NBA champion, with a few more years in the league and not to mention a stubborn streak. Once Team USA decided to go with Derrick Rose as the starter, Frischilla Fraschilla called it "addition by substraction" to cut Rondo, who might not have been happy coming off the bench. In his theory, Derrick Rose, Gordon, Westbrook and Curry all benefit from not having to worry about looking over their shoulder with Rondo gone. I'm not sure I buy it completely, but it's an interesting take.
It was interesting that once again in this game Gordon played quite a bit of small forward, despite the fact that the roster is more balanced at this point, with five guards and seven forwards among the twelve players. Krzyzewski is clearly loving his quickness advantage, and is trying to get as many minutes for his backcourt players as he can.
And how about Kevin Love in this game? Twelve rebounds (half of them on the offensive glass) in twelve minutes! He has such a sense for the ball and such good hands, he just gets every rebound that he comes near. He's been limited by a couple of different minor injuries during the tune ups, but I really think the team can benefit from getting him more minutes. (In fact, it probably says something about how much the coaches like him, that he's on the team despite missing most of the exhibition games.) He may not block shots, but he will do everything else you want from your big man, including clogging the lane and drawing charges.
So this young and inexperienced Team USA heads off to Turkey after going 5-0 in exhibitiions against teams in the World Championships field. I'm the first to point out that exhibitions are nothing to get too excited about, but it's an important confidence boost for the team nonetheless, especially considering their youth and the shoes they're filling, as the follow up to the Redeem Team. It's also worth noting that it was an embarrassing loss to Italy in a warm up that presaged the unfortunate results in the 2004 Olympics. So yeah, I'd rather win the warm ups than lose them.