USA Basketball Beat Again in International Play

Josh Cohen

When the score ran across the screen, I sat back in amazement. Not again. Four years after failing to even medal at the 2004 Olympics, the United States had lost to Greece, 101-95, in the semifinals of the FIBA World Basketball Championships. I, like many others, was left stunned and with plenty of questions. How could the United States, a team with the likes of LeBron, D-Wade, and ‘Melo lose to a team from Greece, with just one player even on an NBA bench for next season? Had the rest of the world not only reached our level, but also surpassed it?

It’s been six years since the United States could call itself the best basketball team in the world. Yet everyone is still befuddled that the country with the clear edge in talent can continuously lose to international teams that might hold one NBA player on their roster. As I see it, there are two basic reasons for the USA’s futility in recent years. Firstly, the team is made up of offensive-minded

individuals. They don’t have the feel of a team, nor do they seem to hold the swagger of a team that looks comfortable playing together. Secondly, and most importantly, they have less of a commitment to defense than President Bush has to saving the environment.

The United States roster reads more like an all-star game lineup than a well-rounded team. There is a problem with putting 12 stars on the same team. They all want to shine, and they all want to score. This is not how you build a true team. The Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, winners of 4 of the last 5 NBA championships, were built around a defensive mentality and players who were willing to sacrifice their glory for the betterment of the team. Unfortunately, this blueprint wasn’t followed by Jerry Colangelo and Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s staff when selecting the roster for Team USA.

Instead of following the simple idiom, “defense wins championships”, they were intrigued by the

potential for a starting five that featured a rising stock of young talent, mainly D-Wade, ‘Melo, and King James, who are more experienced scorers than anything else.

It couldn’t have been any more

evident that the US team lacked a core defensive strategy than when I saw the score of the championship game of Greece vs. Spain. The final score read: Spain 70, Greece 47. Greece, a team comprised of little known players even at the European level, scored 101 points against the United States just two days prior. How does a team that scores 47 points in one game, score 101 points while shooting almost 70% from the field against the US, the most dominant basketball nation in history? Simply put, we are better at dunking than we are at committing ourselves to the basic fundamentals of the game. Defense. Defense. Defense. Frankly our country’s best lacked the ability to stop anyone.

Defense needs to become a priority if the US looks to land gold in Beijing, and it starts with a roster adjustment. Insert the likes of Tayshaun Prince, increase the minutes for Elton Brand and Bruce Bowen (the final cut from the active roster), and create a little team chemistry. Improve your team free throw shooting, learn to guard the pick and role effectively, and we should have no problem in two years.

We don’t need to panic. The talent is still incredibly in our favor, and with two years to work out as a team I have no doubt that the United States will bring home gold in 2008. As hard as it is to accept, we are not home to the best basketball team in the world, but I have confidence that we will right the ship and take back the top spot on the podium two years from now.