http://www.sportingo.com/basketball/arg ... /1001,4178
Fiba Americas Championship: Argentina and Brazil will test the USA's Olympic chances
Team USA are shaping as the deserved favourites to take the FIBA Americas title. In the past they probably regarded qualifying as a given. These days, in the new world order of basketball, even they have come to realise there is some talent beyond their borders.
In men's basketball at the moment, the USA are not the current championship holder at any level of World championship or Olympics across all age groups. The NBA continues to claim the world championship crown every year, somewhat ironical as the current holders of that crown boast a large number of non-USA born players. Not to mention that there are no non-USA teams playing in the NBA, so to claim it as a world championship has always seemed somewhat perverse to the rest of the watching world.
Having come away from last year's World Championships with only more silverware, there has been a subtle shift in focus for the men's senior team. The words being used by selectors and coaches have shifted focus back to team orientated goals. Selectors have obviously had a re-think and are now opening up selection to role players like Mike Redd, and players with more experience such as Jason Kidd.
Clutch players like Kobe Bryant and Chnajncey Billups have been added, making this USA team the most formidable for years. Youth and enthusiasm have been added courtesy of Greg Oden (although there is some doubt about his participation) and Mike Durant, making the balance appear just about right on paper. In the recent Blues v Whites game we saw a great battle towards the end of that game between LeBron James and Bryant, both making critical clutch shots down the stretch. James, unfortunately and very unlike him, missed a double bank shot to win the game with only a few seconds left.
This new-found USA team ethos can be best summed up by Kidd, who said after the game and the mini-camp: "I didn’t come here to lose. We have one goal. There’s no ego, there’s no you know ‘who’s the best on the team’. This is one team, we win and lose together."
They won't have it all their own way though. This time around only two teams can make it through to Olympic qualification and they are playing some good quality teams highly ranked in world basketball. Argentina are always very strong and play a style of basketball that doesn't suit the US team. If they have a tough semi-final match-up with either a Brazil or an Argentina then the US could go home early and not be at the next Olympics. You would think that this would be motivation enough for them. That would be the most embarrassing moment in US men's basketball ever.
However, you have to understand the motivation of teams coming up against the US. They want to win just as bad, and see the arrogance of the US as added motivation to really give it to them. Unlike any time previously, Brazil and Argentina have more players playing in the NBA than ever before and are not intimidated coming up against superstars of the NBA. Some players on their teams have more international playing experience than the US team and both teams have a proud history of playing at the Olympics. For this reason alone this tournament is shaping up as the best Americas tournament ever.
The USA team will have no excuses this time as they have selected arguably the best team ever. They have extra motivation as they know only two teams get through. Fans and writers of basketball, including myself, are salvitating at the prospect of how good this USA team potentially is. What's left is the difficult decision to crop this team down to 12 players and play the type of basketball it will take to come away with the crown.
That style of basketball can appear to be foreign to the NBA players, big defence, team orientated and a whole lot of heart. I think the players chosen this time have the hunger and committment to get USA basketball back on top and restore their dominance to mens basketball.