If you can’t get motivated when you put the jersey on, you don’t have a pulse.
What we’ve seen the past two years has been an embarrassment, flat out. There is no reason why, with the talent we have in the United States, we shouldn’t be dominating international basketball. It’s sad that it’s taken a loss in the World Championships and Olympics for us to start taking international basketball seriously, but that’s what it took.
Jerry Colangelo has formed a committee to form a team to represent the US, not a group of athletes with a few weeks to learn to play with each other good enough to beat teams who have been playing together for years. This can be a 3 summer deal, but more than likely just two as the United States should roll through the World Championships, clinching their spot in the 2008 Olympics.
In the case that they do not win the World Championships, they’ll be playing in 2007 for their Olympic spot in 2008. So a team needs to be assembled soon. What I’ve done is thoroughly gone through each NBA team for guys I think would be good fits to form a cohesive unit, not just the best athletes in the NBA.
The coaching staff has already been selected, and they did a very good job. Coach Krzyzewski has coached teams with tons of talent and brought out the best in them. He really puts an emphasis on team, not just playing around your best player. There isn’t a better choice to coach a team full of some of the best players in the universe. Nate McMillan’s defensive knowledge is going to be a great asset for this team and let’s see a team try to play a zone with Jim Boeheim on the bench. Mike D’Antoni and his international experience may be the most valuable asset on this team.
Now for the players, first thing you’ll probably notice is no Shaquille O’Neal and Amare Stoudemire. But this isn’t without good reason.
Shaquille O’Neal isn’t on this team because of his unwillingness to play for a coach whose methods he’s unfamiliar with, his terrible relationship with Kobe Bryant, and his health. Most of the summers for him are spent primarily for healing from the beating his body takes, I do not think he’ll be able to make the 3 year commitment that is required for members of the USA basketball team.
Amare is coming off of knee surgery and it’s going to be really tough for him to recover from. Chris Webber got that surgery 2 years ago and is admittedly still not the same player. With the rehab that is going to be required to heal from this completely, I don’t think Amare is going to be able to make the commitment.
Point Guards: Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade.
What you want from your point guards is game control, the ability to score, and for them to find open guys. These two guys have all that stuff, and much more. AI is a fiery competitor whose great play rubs off on everyone, while Dwyane Wade at 6’4 would be a match up nightmare for other teams. While they’re known for their scoring, both these guys can really distribute the ball.
Shooting Guards: Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen.
Kobe Bryant’s sheer ability to do everything likely makes him team USA’s first choice, he’s the best SG in the game (Ask all the NBA GMs, they’ll tell you so), and he’s made it clear he wants nothing more than to be on the USA team. You need shooters, and there may not be a better one than Ray Allen. Shooting isn’t the only part of his game that he excels at, as he is very adequate in every other aspect of his game, making him and his international experience a good add for this team.
Small Forwards: Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince.
Two of the three best players in the NBA are the small forwards on this team. Lebron James is a triple double waiting to happen every night, while being ridiculously unselfish. There isn’t a man on this planet who can guard Kevin Garnett, plain and simple. He’s the kind of guy who would love to represent team USA and play with these guys. Tayshaun is a surprise pick, but he makes this team because of his defense. Tayshaun constantly guards the best players on the opposing team night in and night out, and you need a guy on your team who is willing to do that. He won’t want to go out there and score 20 points, but he will want to go out there and shut down the guy who averages 20.
Power Forwards: Jermaine O’Neal, Emeka Okafor, Dwight Howard.
Versatility, toughness, and experience describes the power forwards. While Dwight doesn’t have the experience on the international level that Emeka and Jermaine have, he’s definitely got the versatility and toughness. All three guys are great defenders and great finishers, which are important things for the big men on team USA.
Centers: Tim Duncan, Ben Wallace.
Sure Tim Duncan said his international basketball career was 90% over, but with the team that is being assembled, and the fact that winning a gold medal is one of the things in basketball he hasn’t accomplished yet, you can’t help but think he’ll be willing to join up. Ben Wallace brings that toughness and willing to scrap that does well on any team. Sure he can’t put up 20 points or make two free throws in a row, but he can control a game on the defensive end of the court, and that’s not something a lot of players can say. His play fits great with the type of high scoring guards he’ll be playing with.
Alternates: Elton Brand, Kirk Heinrich, Joe Johnson
Elton is the tough, hardworking kind of big man you want on your team. He’s super versatile and has experience with Coach K. Heinrich is a hard nosed PG who pushes the ball up the floor and spreads the defense out significantly. Joe Johnson’s ability to play the 1, 2, or 3 while also being an adequate spot up shooter makes him an excellent alternate.
This group of players has great potential. It’s got shooters, defenders, shot blockers, unselfish guys, and most importantly, guys who want to bring the gold home. They’ve got a lineup for every match up they’ll face, no team will be able to focus on just letting them shoot or keeping the ball away from the big men.
You put this team out there with 2 summers of experience in 2008 and there’s no way any team comes within 20 points of beating them.