Waking up from the Nightmare
This article is about the USA Dream Team. I am not here to sound off alarm bells about the “rise and fall of the Dream Team”. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of suggestions that “the world has finally caught up” with USA basketball. I’m here to state my personal opinion that the world has not yet “caught up” with USA basketball. Let me tell you what I think:
First of all, the NBA game and the international game is completely different. The time for each quarter for an international game is shorter than an NBA quarter. The significance of this is that upsets can occur more frequently since the setup kills the chance for any late comebacks. Secondly, the international game allows the players to knock the ball away even when it is above the cylinder. Those can add up. Finally, the “feel” of the game is just different. The referees and their calls are different from the NBA and the style of play is different. It feels like sleeping in someone else’s bed. Let me explain; there has been a long debate about the NBA whether the league makes “preferential calls” towards certain players (All star players) It has also been discussed that “give back calls” exist (ie. When the referee feels that he has missed a call previously, he would try and make it up with a call against the other team). While these are not written rules of the game, it does make up the NBA game. These informal rules are as important as the formal rules. It can be seen as the “equalizer” in the game. Players and coaches may sometimes not be happy with it, but they all know that it is integral to the NBA game.
This is why NBA players may encounter some difficulties in the international game. These informal rules exist as well, but they are not aware of what the rules are. It is difficult to play in the NBA for most of your career and then go play an international game once every four years. In the case of this year’s dream team, most of these players are playing at the international level for the first time.
A prime example of my argument can be seen when players make the leap from NCAA to the NBA. A lot of players simply fade away after great college careers. It’s not because they were out of shape, they shrank or forgot how to dribble a ball, the game just changed.
I am not making excuses for Dream Team’s current performance. They should not have been blown out by Puerto Rico. I still strongly believe that basketball is still dominated by the United States. The problem is that these players know that a little too well. On paper, the Dream Team is filled with All Stars. Iverson can drop 50 a game by himself. With these weaker guards, he can probably drop 75. They know they can do this and that is exactly what is holding them back. It feels as if everyone is watching an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: it’s a given that Arnold’s going to take a few lickings in the beginning but everyone knows that eventually, he’s going to kick some ass. The Dream Team is treating the tournament like that movie right now. They should be aware that there’s no Hollywood ending unless they actually start turning up the intensity of their play. It’s a problem of motivation; it’s hard to be motivated when you expect something to be given to you. It feels as if the team is just playing not to lose. These guys are good, they just need to wake up from this nightmare hungry.