The U.S. men's Olympic basketball team is struggling and everybody has an opinion about it.
We've probably heard all the excuses by now and there is some merit to most of them:
- The rest of the basketball world is catching up.
- Those other teams have the same group of guys playing together for many years.
- The U.S. players haven't had enough time together as a unit.
Certainly there is truth in all of those things. But let's face it -- this group is playing nowhere near its potential and is way more talented than any of the teams that have come close to beating it in Rio. Seriously, that French team with Tony Parker on the sidelines comes within three points of the U.S.? That's not right. The Australian team is full of NBA players, plays hard and smart -- but come on, Aron Baynes? Yes, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellevadova are solid guards but not NBA all-stars.
Actually, most of the other teams in the field are experienced, but several of them are on the edge of being old. Yes, we've seen those Aussies together for years -- but many of them are on the downside of their career. Same with the team from France.
At the World Cup two years ago the Americans went 9-0 and nobody came within 20 points of them. Was that a better team than this one? Yes. But this team is still full of NBA all-stars.
The truth is, the best player on this U.S. team is Kevin Durant. Hands down. But he's gotten just 10 shots over the last two games. The U.S. is not moving the ball and thus not shooting well. There's been way too much hero-ball and not enough ball movement. That's obvious. My theory is that there's a degree of selfishness that may pop up when Carmelo Anthony is your team leader -- even though Anthony's play has been a bright spot.
Could you really expect Anthony to be preaching unselfish play to his teammates?
But the team's real problem is on defense. When the U.S. coaching staff added Tom Thibodau I figured he'd take care of that department. He's supposed to be the defensive guru, right? But it hasn't turned out that way. Pick-and-roll defense has been a complete disaster and I'm not seeing a lot of energy being expended at the defensive end.
Yes. it helps when your team has been together a while, but basic NBA defense is the same for just about every team. Pick-and-roll coverage is pretty basic and certainly we know that every NBA player has an idea of what is expected of him based on what type of defense his team plays.
But these players are not meeting those expectations and I don't believe it has a lot to do with how long this bunch has been together.
It appears to me the coaches are not getting through to their players. The effort level is not what it needs to be and that has to change. Oh well, the medal round is about to begin and my guess is that we will soon see an uptick in the interest level of the American players, who may not take the early round all that seriously.
It's time the coaches find a rotation of players who will bring energy and intelligence to the floor and then stick to that rotation. If you don't get it done on defense, you don't play. So far, this thing reminds me of an all-star game with the coaching staff attempting to make sure everybody gets a chance to play and everyone's happy.
All-star games don't mean much to NBA players. And when you think about it, that's the type of defense we're seeing -- the kind you see in an all-star game.
That has to change.