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Other Voices on Team USA

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I came across a couple of pretty good overviews of the Team USA situation.

Kurt at FB&G presents a solid analysis of the issues facing the team.  The fact that he tends to agree with me both on the issues themselves, and on the fixes, makes me question my entire world view.  A Laker fan?  Thinking like a Clipper fan?  Don't cross the beams.  It would be bad.

He singles out 3 main problems: Defense, Shooting and Movement without the ball.  I haven't been focusing on the defense directly - more on the way that playing small and focusing on scoring wings in the selection process has affected it.  But let's face it - the Greek pick-and-roll is not unstoppable, and there's no excuse for the poor defensive showing of Team USA in Japan.  Kurt's right - tt needs to get better.

[L]ast summer the USA team seemed to count on Carmelo Anthony to provide the inside presence, and he's not a defensive powerhouse. I think a combination of Howard/Bosh/Amare improves that somewhat, just in terms of athleticism, but inside presence could still be an issue.

Especially if Coach K continues to play Melo at the 4, and shortchanges the minutes of Howard/Bosh/Amare they way he did with Brand/Howard/Bosh last summer.  I fear this problem will be worse with Kobe, LeBron and Melo on this team, but we'll see.

Chris Sheridan's piece on ESPN.com spends a lot of time on Kobe, and on the (absence of a) story of his Laker future.  (Kobe is refusing to talk about that - so the absence of information becomes a story.)  

Sheridan agrees with me on the upgrades at the point and in outside shooting, and the importance of those upgrades.

Instead of Kirk Hinrich and Chris Paul running the point, it'll be Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups....

Instead of having Carmelo Anthony play the role of designated shooter, there will be a choice among Anthony, Bryant, Michael Redd and Mike Miller.

But I have to call Sheridan out on one supposed roster 'upgrade':

Instead of having no natural shot-blockers as the last line of defense, Tyson Chandler will be in the mix.

Excuse me?  Elton Brand is not on this team, and Tyson Chandler is, and that's better for the last line of defense?  I'm not sure what the definition of 'natural shot blocker' is, but I do know that EB's career average of 2.2 is much better than Chandler's of 1.5, and that Elton has averaged at least 2 blocks per game for each of the 6 seasons Chandler's been in the league, while Chandler has NEVER averaged more than 1.8.  My guess is that IF Chandler makes the team, he'll be the 12th man, so the statement becomes even more dubious in that light.

Most interesting to me is the honesty with which he deals with the no shows.  USA Basketball's official release simply lists those that are not in camp, implying that everything is injury-related.  But Sheridan tells it like it is:

Gilbert Arenas and Bruce Bowen ... were displeased by being two of the final cuts last summer....  Adam Morrison and Luke Ridnour [have] no chance of making the final roster....  Antawn Jamison ... decided not to attend after being used sparingly in Japan....

It illustrates the futility of the supposed three-year plan.  I mean, what exactly is the point of getting a long term commitment from the 24 core players if in fact there is no commitment?  The egos involved make it impossible to manage.  After all, Jamison actually MADE the team, but wasn't satisfied with his minutes.  By designating  (now) 32 players that are in theory trying out for the team, you're essentially alienating 20 or more of them (the guys you cut, plus one or more at the end of the bench).  OK, not really that many, since (thankfully) each year many players sit out due to injuries.  But the net effect is that the pool gets smaller, not larger.  If Shane Battier is cut this time, will he show up for the Beijing tryout?  Maybe we don't care, but if we're really trying to build a team that features role players, you either have to choose role players, or ask super-mega-stars to be role players.  So far, neither has worked since 1992.