They shall fall to fields of child

So many pains, so much anguish. I more or less laid it down last night, and certainly said my piece early on. But look, I can't really say I'm surprised or moved by the loss to Greece. It's true, I might feel some deep-seeded need to take up Gilbert's side and cast USA ball as evil, short-sighted, and corrosive to all I cherish in this sport. And let's not so easily dispense with Zirin-gate, which appears both more tempting and far less dire in the wake of this crushing blow. Mainly though, I'm struck once again by what this tells us about the international game: even disciplined Americans fall, no-name squads can take them handily, and overseas, your mom and pop list of NCAA cast-offs burn like the most gleaming stars. USA basketball attempted to adjust its program, and this might just be proof that this is indeed a foreign land, one in which NBA players-due to nature, nurture, and practical constraints-might not be in a position to take the upper hand, much less romp through uncontested.

College ball has cast by many as the promised land from which so many potential greats were exiled or barred from by their own hubris. We've tended to assume that the international version, since it is "professional" and all, is somewhere between this and the NBA. Maybe it's time we radically re-think this ordering of the roundball cosmos, and start placing worldwide competition below NCAA, stocking teams with hard-working second and third options who have no choice but to toil godfully for the fate of American soil. I'll put it like this: in the same way that the First Memorial FreeDarko Primitive Death Troop was poised to make a mockery of both itself and the changes that have landed the sport where it is today, these goofy international tournaments are a parallel universe, a prism of lax inversion, that we invest faith and will in at our own peril. Trying new things is great and all, but only if you recognize that newness brings as many limitations as it does expansive gusts of liberty.

Oh, and because someone has to say it: FREE GILBERT ENDLESSLY AND IN ALL THINGS!!!!!!!!!


At 9/01/2006 12:08 PM, Anonymous fix_the_knicks said...

Maybe it's the high entropy one-and-done format? In the NCAA tournament, every year we see talented college teams get evicted because some no-name Jesuit school or state-that's-not-a-state gets hot from behind the arc for six minutes. How often does the college team with the greatest number of NBA-ready players actually win the tournament?

In the NBA, particularly in the playoffs, it's a chess match -- no weakness survives a seven-game series without being exposed. You don't think that Greek zone would have been solved in a playoff series, to the tune of 4-1? In the college game, the solution is Majerus-style advance preparation, but Team USA seems to have foregone that route, as it's being widely reported that coach K didn't even know the names of any of the dudes on the Greek team.

At 9/01/2006 12:31 PM, Anonymous Stumbleweed said...

In my somewhat shattered state after watching the loss, completely rapt at 8:00 this morning on the DVR, I can't help but to feel somewhat satisfied -- sitting in my Carmelo Anthony jersey.

To anyone that watched this tournament, (in isolation) the 2003 Draft Class hierarchy has been 1. Melo 2. Wade 3. LeBron. I don't know what that tells us in terms of USA victory potential in the Olympics, but it makes me happy to live in Denver and see where this goes next season.

International ball has been a nice diversion from watching 2nd and 3rd string NFL ballers fight for their lives and my efforts to avoid baseball like the plague. All Arenas aside, it has been great to watch this group in its flashes of brilliance and stretches of complete frustration and befuddlement (as exhibited in the Greek loss).

Personally, I think it will get under their skin, and Spanoulis will have a target on his back whenever he comes off the bench for Houston. And it should give them some tape to watch for the Olympics, because from the looks of things, the Greek team will try to keep that core together (as they have for some time).

Now on to more urgent matters -- does anyone know when they'll be showing the Bronze medal game? They said "tomorrow morning" but I looked thorugh my guide and didn't see anything.

At 9/01/2006 12:35 PM, Anonymous Tinns said...

Ever since the last world championships and olympics, we always used to wonder how a team like, say, Spain, would make out in the NBA. Yeah the games are different, but they did beat some not bad USA players, right? So now, how many games would Greece (who has no NBA players) win in the league? 20? 40? 60?

(And for the would-be economists out there, wouldn't this be a great way to manage the cap? Give all the Greeks 2 million a piece?)

And if we conservatively guess 42 wins, is this what Colangelo is up to? And how are my Raptors going to make out this year?

(And yes August is a killer month for basketball (unless you have NBA TV and get the classic games, which of course I don't).)

At 9/01/2006 12:36 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i believe everything i say, which leaves me wondering if this spike in melo's stock has been illusory. or maybe even an indictment of his NBA star status.

At 9/01/2006 12:49 PM, Blogger there is no you or me without Suomi said...

What I want to know is how USA bball had Mr. Zone Defense (Boeheim) on the bench as an assistant and it never seemed to occur to us to break said defense out, (even if just as a Dale Brown freak gimmick) meanwhile five guys named Nikos made almost all their shots from 15 feet and in? Pack the freaking lane. I'm of the opinion you don't need months playing together to know how to do that.
Last night's loss tells me that the supposed feeling of entitlement and superiority American ballers feel isn't related to their offense, but defense. Who'da thunk it, considering the (increasingly inaccurate) stereotype of the NBA player who's too lazy to D up. In other words, we didn't lose because we played isolation basketball. Towards the end it looked like the switch had been flipped for the offense, they just did it way too late and with absolutely no scheme or plan on the other end to match.
If only I could believe Spanakopitalousisis will stay hot from the outside once he's in Rocket red...

At 9/01/2006 12:52 PM, Blogger there is no you or me without Suomi said...

Oops- left out one thought- the strict man to man D style we seemed to favor made me think the psychology behind it was that it's unmanly to have to resort to a five man concept on defense against supposedly weaker opponents.

At 9/01/2006 12:55 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Last night's loss tells me that the supposed feeling of entitlement and superiority American ballers feel isn't related to their offense, but defense.

shouldn't that be "not the players' sense of entitlement on offense, but the supposedly military-tight coaches' smugness regarding defense?"

At 9/01/2006 1:17 PM, Anonymous static kid said...

42 wins = conservative?! While Greece certainly deserves some credit, there's a reason none of these guys were in the NBA last year. Announcer comments about how excited NBA teams would be to get Schortsanitis etc. made me want to punch the TV. On his good days he might be Tractor Traylor quality.

At 9/01/2006 1:34 PM, Anonymous El Dorado Sunrise said...

response to fix_the_knicks:

Where has it been widely reported that Coach K didn't know the Greek players' names? I'd like to read that.

At 9/01/2006 1:50 PM, Anonymous Sourounis said...

The ignorance that runs through this post, and most of its comments, is nothing but ridiculous after the last game. Greece beat a Usa Team that shot at 62%. That means, USA wasn't having an off game. And after what happened, if you, Americans don't feel even a bit troubled, that you went down EASILY then you don't know what basketball is.

And one last thing: your excuse that international game is different, and thus your loss is explained is really stupid. The 92,94 and 96 teams won in the intrnational game. For yor 6 year drought, 2 things can be happening:
1. Either you have gotten worse
2. We (euros) have gotten better


PS 1. Greece is the current euro-champion (having beaten Frannce, Germany etc). If you think that by making jokes at the hard-to-pronounce greek names, you are making a point, then please conitnue. Continue to look down on us. We will win you easily in 2 years time.

PS 2. This is LeBron? The revolutioner? the inventor of a new era? Yeah, we're witnesses all right.

At 9/01/2006 1:59 PM, Blogger T. said...

Normally, I'd give a break to someone reading English as non-native language (heck, I barely read Chinese blog posts, nevermind post on them) but slow down there turbo. Nobody around these parts has said anything about the US having an "off-game" - you must be reading some other chest thumping USA basketball blog.

At 9/01/2006 2:00 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

obviously the rest of the world got better. this is why dirk exists. i'm just saying that there's a useful distinction to be drawn; the U.S. arrogance comes in thinking American ball, pro or college, could with enough forethought trounce everyone. That's what happened in the past: despite the difference, the USA was able to roll through the international field because they were better in ANY form of basketball.

i don't particularly care or care for international ball. and i think it's ludicrous to say that it's on par with the NBA, excellence-wise. i'm simply suggesting that we admit that it's far from even college ball, since USA basketball assumed that if it wasn't the pros, it must have been NCAA.

there's already a debate over which form of basketball is more "authentic," NBA or NCAA. i guess i shouldn't be surprised that there might be some people wanting to throw international ball's hat into that ring. admit, though, that this is the kind of comparison you're setting up.

At 9/01/2006 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If by "authentic" you mean, the way basketball was originally intended to be played (re: your 8/25 blog), then internationall ball is certainly that. No insult to international ball but it does seem like they're playing a less evolved version of basketball where hyper-athleticism is discouraged.

At 9/01/2006 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as International Basketball is concerned, it's all Greek to me!

At 9/01/2006 2:18 PM, Anonymous fix_the_knicks said...

El Dorado --

A couple of guys on one of the cnnsi messageboards wrote that in the post-game press conference, K was calling out the Greek players by number. Yeah, maybe he just didn't want to mispronounce their names.


I agree with Sourounis that the US's troubles can't be chalked up to the differences in the international game, besides the one-and-done format. This was the same blog that was talking about how Kobe could learn to master 6-on-6 basketball in an hour -- now you're telling me a small variation in the size of the lane is enough to render our all-stars impotent in the face of a team of dudes who couldn't even crack an NBA roster? I think we were underprepared -- we probably only really scouted Spain, France, and Argentina -- but it's nothing that wouldn't have worked itself out in a seven or even five-game series.

At 9/01/2006 2:19 PM, Anonymous Sourounis said...

I've just read more calmly what i've written and i apologise if i seem agressive.

To be honest i went furious when i read: "five guys named Nikos made almost all their shots from 15 feet and in". Truth of the matter is there are only 2 Nikos in thw greek team, and one of them is out with a broken cheeknone (by Varejao).

Anyway, Shoals, of course i am setting up this comparison. Greece beat USA today not with previously unimaginable tacticts, but with pick and roll, and zone defence (and man to man during periods of the game).

As a narrative, as a culture there is no comparison between NBA and Euro-ball. But in the court, the tacticts were pretty much the same. One team executed them better while maximazing its asvantages (shooting), and the other failed to do so. It's not that USA didn't know what to do, it;s that they couldn't do it.

For what it's worth, on my greek blog, i am the only one left supporting the american excellence on the skills level.

At 9/01/2006 2:25 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

ftk, you've got me there.

and sorounis, i do find the tendency to dismiss international ball because it's played by a bunch of weird foreigners kind of disturbing. i'll dismiss it because it's a very different basketball world and culture, not because the participants have funny names or come from far-flung lands.

it's not that different from someone writing off iverson because he's a thug, or applauding that early entry into the pros weeds out the greedy troublemakers.

At 9/01/2006 2:28 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

in other words, it's foreign because it's different, not different because it's foreign and therefore automatically. obviously there is some overlap and commonality. but just as the USA can't win in this setting, no national team would win an NBA championship.

At 9/01/2006 2:29 PM, Blogger Golden3309 said...

Congrats to Greece they played a hell of a game.

As to the US team demise, what we see in these tournaments is a clash of philosophies towards the game.

The International style of play is much different and it isn't something that Americans regardless of their basketball level are familiar with. That does matter. People watch the NBA around the world and thus know what to expect from us but it doesn't work the other way around.

Also in terms of us not respecting the international style of play, I think that will not change especially with black players given the racial bullsh*t that always crops up after something like this.

I've been in a few forums and the coded language is right there. The railing against the hip hop/urban/streetball player that we all know is just another way of saying black. It's all pretty much "Those negroes hafta learn."

That racial crap distorts understanding the real quality of international play and the things that we could learn from it.

It also distorts understanding where we are at.

For me as a black American my visceral feeling when I hear discussions about international basketball is to tune out. Not because of arrogance but because I can do without the ranting of white people who jut want a safe way of calling us lazy and stupid.

At 9/01/2006 2:29 PM, Anonymous Sourounis said...


it's not so much that you came under prepared. If you've seen the game, then you must have noticed that in every single last possesion USA had on offense, they simply run isolation offence (obviously relying on the talent of LBJ). That kind of game won't cut it.

If i recall correctly, isolation game is the game plan that got LBJ to the 2nd round, and what gave Wade the title. But it's not enough against good defences.

Team USA was simply too motionless. In that sense, i think NBA is a more un-evolved form of basketball. It;s like being too stupid to use all 5 players on offense.

Athleticism is not discouraged in Europe, it's just that euros are not as athletic by nature.

At 9/01/2006 2:36 PM, Anonymous Sourounis said...

"i do find the tendency to dismiss international ball because it's played by a bunch of weird foreigners kind of disturbing. i'll dismiss it because it's a very different basketball world and culture, not because the participants have funny names or come from far-flung lands"

exactly Shoals. Thank u. That's what i was trying to say with my challenged english. Again, sorry if i seemed agressive.

At 9/01/2006 2:49 PM, Anonymous aug said...

The lane isn't the biggest problem the usa players have.
It's the shorter 3 point line which makes it harder to play defense because you have to go over the screen to stop the easy 3 unlike in the nba where you can normally play under the screen. Going over the screen allows your man to go by you easier to the whole which is why no nba guard was able to stop arroyo and the greek guards.
The lane presents a problem mainly because it's harder to start on the block and post up, but not too big a deal to overcome.
I think the biggest problem for the US was the zone rules. The nba has zones, but the nba also has defensive 3 seconds. The greeks just clogged the lanes, and forced the americans to take outside shots. They couldn't work the ball around to find the hole in the zone because the nba team game has most definitely deteriorated. Yes including the phoenix suns.

I think the main problem is that the nba has developed into a 2 man game. Anyone who watched the playoffs can tell you this. The suns-clippers series while very dramatic, almost became unwatchable from a basketball standpoint in the 4th quarters and overtimes. The suns would run the pick and roll with nash and diaw, and the clips would run the high pick and roll with cassell and brand. This is all that happened the entire series in the late minutes. Wade, lebron and dirk were one man teams half the game, sometimes allowing someone else on the team to take their own shots. But almost none of the teams truly feel comfortable working together in the clutch. Not even the suns because they were winless in close games the whole season, and steve nash had a good amount of choke jobs in the playoffs where he kept trying to go baseline behind the defense and throw a jump pass but getting caught.

This US team was the same as it was 2 years ago but with a better full court defense. Obviously that defense wasn't gonna work against the best teams, so why didn't we swtich to a zone? Do you know how small the holes in the zone would be if we could keep dwight in the middle of the lane all day, and have big athletic guys in the perimeter? The greeks would've been pretty stymied. The offense the whole tourney was either fast breaks or 1 on 1 plays. They didn't even bust out much of a two man game. I think it was mainly a poor effort again, gathering players and preparing them. For the love of god, just bring along a couple sharpshooters, even if it'll hurt jersey sales a tiny bit. Wade and lebron are good, but they suck at the international game. They'd be good on a crappy team where the offense runs through them, but they're still trying to be bron and wade from the playoffs which only hurt the team in the long run.

Shoals, i really feel for you and gil this tourney. Gil would've most certainly made a difference. I think the rest of the nba players had the same mindset as shoals. In that if the US sent decent players over and tried hard, they'd waltz through. Looks like next time around they'll have to go one further and give an all out effort.

At 9/01/2006 2:50 PM, Anonymous fix_the_knicks said...

Sourounis -- On the other hand, if the USA shot 62%, maybe the problem wasn't the offense?

Golden -- Great post, couldn't agree more.

Getting back to my original point -- basketball games are chance propositions, the best team just doesn't always win. This isn't sour grapes -- congratulations to Greece, they won and they deserve it. But what bothers me is the idea that losing one game out of six or seven proves that there's something systematically wrong with the way we play basketball. Imagine if after the wins over Germany and Italy, every commentator on earth started ranting about how this proves that the Euro style of play is no match for American athleticism? We need some perspective.

One thing I like about soccer is how teams bring such different styles of play to the World Cup. The South American game is probably more "freedarko" than the European version, but when Brazil or Argentina lose to a European team (or vice versa), you don't see those countries launch into two years of histrionic introspection about what they're doing wrong, or how they need to play like Italy. They say, "it wasn't our year," bitch about the ref, fire their coach, and move on.

At 9/01/2006 3:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 9/01/2006 4:04 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i'm pretty sure this isn't the carolina blue blinders again, but i guess it could be. the problem starts with the coaches, who deserve a lot more of the blame than the players. yes, u.s.a. basketball keeps changing up the rosters, but they're also changing the coaches, so there's no coherent system. if people knew how they were going to play going into the practices, it'd make it a lot easier for the players to adjust from the nba game.

i haven't watched the game yet, but from what i've read, the u.s. did not make the right adjustments to deal with the greek zone d and their constant pick and rolling on offense. this is the sort of thing a good coach can adjust for at halftime. dean smith was the master of these type of adjustments. at duke, coach k has always stubbornly stuck to his gameplan even when it's not working, just because it works 95% of the time. but, even aside from in-game adjustments, did they not scout the greek team? didn't they do this exact same thing in winning the european championship? couldn't we have come in with a gameplan?

it seems to me it's more stubborn coaches than dumb players that's the americans' problem.

At 9/01/2006 4:08 PM, Blogger Golden3309 said...

fix_the_knicks I agree with your post.

That's why I have to laugh at the idea that the European game is more fundamentally sound.

Fundamentals of what?

Everyone talks about the offensive side of the ball. I can understand why since the greatest contribution that the Europeans have made to the game is offensively.

But no one talks about defensive fundamentals that are important too.

It's easy to extol the virtues of a system that you only see at it's best.

European weaknesses on defense are not seen because of the issue of zones which Americans aren't used to.

I remember seeing a local production on Team USA which featured Mike D'Antoni and his relationship with the team and how his understanding of the international game would help us. The report also breathlessly played up the Phoenix Suns as the best example of "real" basketball in the league.
Wide open basketball, great passing etc...

My jaw dropped. The Suns play wide open ball partially because they have to. The can't play defense worth a damn.

If that's what basketball is supposed to be why were they sitting at home during the finals?

People are making comparisons to a system that they rarely see and frankly don't fully understand.

At 9/01/2006 4:25 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I think the rest of the nba players had the same mindset as shoals. In that if the US sent decent players over and tried hard, they'd waltz through. Looks like next time around they'll have to go one further and give an all out effort.

i don't think i ever said that i personally believed this; i really could care less about the whole thing. i guess i'm advocating full-fledged basketball relativism, but i clearly have a pecking order all my own.

the humor part is going to come when they try and adjust to this latest cataclysm. different players? different coaches? or is it as simple as ftk's "one loss does not mean we're hopelessly overmatched?"

At 9/01/2006 4:27 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

as in, this is apples and oranges but i can still like oranges better.

At 9/01/2006 4:36 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

I would second the opinion that the blame should rather fall on the coaching staff of Team USA. There are set plays that you can use against a zone. And if you do want to stick with isos, look at Argentina. If Ginobili can get into the lane against zone defenses so should Paul, LeBron and Wade. Send one of the bigs (ideally one who can shoot from long range) to set a moving screen and space the other three guys properly.

But to me the real problem in preparation is not trying to maximize what the great roster of Team USA offers. Let them play a 3-2 zone - they'll still have Brand and Howard to protect against pentration - plus three uber-athletes up top to wreck havoc. Keep Howard in the lane and have him snatch every ball off the rim after it touches it once (remember, no goaltending even if it's above the rim). Put Brad Miller out there for God's sake.

Also, I'm wondering about ranking international play lower than the NCAA. I'm pretty sure that Argentina, Spain or Greece would fare great against college competition.

As far as one of these national teams competing in the NBA, I say there's no way they win 30 games. A few posts back Shoals described the US teams' problems with the international game as difficulties in a 'specializied setting' as far as the rules go (if I recall correctly, if I'm misquoting you, please correct me). That's exactly how I would describe the NBA game, a game that has been fitted to the talent of its players - for example the hand-checking rule, illegal defense rules etc. Under these special rules most of the European players wouldn't be competitive, and mostly because of their lack of athleticism.

At 9/01/2006 4:58 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i still think it's preposterous to suggest that the NBA players aren't the best in the universe, but saying "lower" had more to do with the fact that the NCAA is quite literally below the NBA. and yet that was where USA basketball decided to turn for inspiration. quite frankly it's none of my business and of no particular interest to me if someone thinks international competition is superior.

while it's not as stupid as claiming that college ball is king, the best argument for its worth seems to be that it's not like the NCAA and even less like the NBA. if i had to do it all over again, i'd say that national teams are up and to the left of college ball, which is directly below the pro game. slightly lesser but certainly parallel.

At 9/01/2006 6:08 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Agreed. Since I didn't follow the media coverage of Team USA's preparation as closely as some of you guys in the US did, wasn't the idea of the international game being more like college ball than NBA ball behind the reasoning of choosing Coach K?

And again, I'm really interested in other people's opinion on that, couldn't the rules of FIBA basketball also be seen as a chance for Team USA rather than just a limitation?

Certainly zone defenses can be used to hide weak individual defenders. But it's not like a zone defense doesn't profit from good athletic players. That's why I suggested a 3-2 zone, because the US team was so superior physically that they could have gotten away with two people primarily guarding the basket area and three guys on the perimeter. As someone mentioned earlier, imagine the US with a big line-up completely packing the lane or even using a full-court zone press with Paul-Wade-Melo-James-Howard for example.

At 9/01/2006 6:26 PM, Blogger there is no you or me without Suomi said...

Sourounis- "the 5 guys named Nikos" thing wasn't meant literally. If the USA had lost to say, Canada, it would have read "we lost to 5 guys named Dave" or if Germany "we lost to Dirk and 4 guys named Gunter". I'd have been shit out of luck with the names stereotype-wise if we'd lost to Senegal.

...and to buffer my thought earlier, yeah it should have reflected more of a militarily-rigid approach to coaching in our defensive inflexibility, but I'm typing from under 20,000 leagues of mucus from the summer cold from hell. Now how's THAT for sports-as-life writ large, a coach from a military background not being able to make necessary changes when the times, opponent's style of play, and the rules of engagement have changed...?

At 9/01/2006 7:43 PM, Anonymous Roger Swank said...

To answer some questions that were brought up earlier:

1) Chris Sheridan brought up the point that Coach K didn't know the names of the Greek players (it was either in his most recent column or in the chat he did today). He also called out Rudy Tomjonovich (sp?) and the rest of the US scouts for their poor scouting of the Greek team.

2) I'm confused about the showing of the Bronze game. One part of the ESPN schedule listing online says it's supposed to show at 6:30 a.m. on the deuce, but the main part says that it's just a bunch of hunting shows.

I have to say I agree with Brown Recluse, Esq. When I watched the game I wasn't screaming at the players, I was screaming at the coaches. They made no adjustments and I don't even think Team USA had a playbook; I didn't notice any sort of plays being called. The only reason why they came back in the end was the desperation of the players when they realized the dire situation they were in. I am a relative basketball neophite, but I could think of about four dozen things I would have done differently if I was Coach K.

Also, did anyone else notice that Fran Frachilla (sp?) called the game at 3:30 a.m. but was in the Sportcenter studio for tonights SC? I guess he wasn't actually at the games.

At 9/01/2006 7:47 PM, Blogger T. said...

been shit out of luck with the names stereotype-wise if we'd lost to Senegal.

Five guys named N'Diaye!

At 9/01/2006 7:48 PM, Anonymous Roger Swank said...

Also, the results of adding the FIBA World teams to the NBA: Argentina and Spain would be middle playoff seeds, France and Greece would be fighting for 7 and 8 seeds, and Panama and Quatar would go winless.

At 9/01/2006 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's all be honest for one minute here. The REAL reason U.S.A. lost was because there was no money involved. Face it. Nowadays, if lucrative endorsements and contracts aren't involved, players could give a rat's ass about being patriotic and playing for their country. It's science, fellas.

At 9/01/2006 10:53 PM, Anonymous aug said...

The nba should really do more preseason games against Euro club teams like the raptors did a yera or two ago when they lost to maccabi tel aviv. Sure it was preseason and the raptors, but this wasn't even a national team. Yea, they are one of the top teams in the euro league, but the fact that they beat an nba team was still pretty impressive. I'm pretty sure it was in america with nba rules but don't quote me on this. I think more of these are going on this nba preseason. It'll be interesting to see the euro players playing the nba game for a change.

Shoals: My mistake on putting words in your mouth. I guess i didn't read what you said carefully enough.

At 9/01/2006 11:31 PM, Anonymous DuckLives said...

So wait, we scored 95 points in a 40 minute game. Was the isolation-heavy offense really a problem?

This has been brought up before in the comments, so I'll let it rest to some extent.

But what about the unreasonable expectations that USA Basketball has to deal with? They are expected not only to go undefeated in every major tournament, but to never play a close game. To the casual fan, the only news they get regarding USA Basketball is "USA loses to hairy unshaven white men who aren't in the NBA" when a more informed perspective might be "US under 25 team loses to a team that has played together for their entire lives, whose entire focus is on this tournament, who also happen to be the European champs"

At 9/01/2006 11:52 PM, Blogger Festus said...

To ask (late) a question that's bothering me in an interesting discussion: how many games are we assuming Team USA would have won in a season in the NBA?

wv dhwqb: Delayed Hatred of Wade's Qualified Bullsh**?

At 9/02/2006 3:16 AM, Anonymous Sourounis said...

his holiness,

i know it wasn't meant literally. But it;s still nothing more than stereotyping. And i guess it's ok coming from a fan. I would feel and think the same if i saw an american team from NCAA.

The problem is that team USA propably thought the same. At the post-game interviews they were referring to the greek players by their numbers.

I mean, Greece features Papaloukas, who is the MVP of Euroleague, and who is like Jason Kidd in terms of style, and on the other hand you have Diamantides who is Europe's best defender for the past 2 years. Both are PG's. Their style and game are very differnet.

Yet, USA made no adjustments according to who was playing. And that's just plain arrogant. Coach K probably though that Greece not only featured 5 Nikos, but also 5 Nikos with a similar game, and 7 Dimitris with a similar game.

It's not arrogance not to know something (=eurobasketball). Arrogance is to ignore it when it has beat you for the last 6 years, and to analyse it with stereotypes.


Somewhere above it was mentioned that europeans make their claims only when they win, and that when USA beats euroteams they hide. Well, Europe has only got 3 good teams, and above average. The good teams are Greece, Spain and Lithuania, and the above average are France and Germany. And it's not like all 5 of them are the "ambassadors" of eurobasketball (germany certainly isn't). France is a mix of NBA and Europe. If USA had won the gold by beating Greece and Spain, then that would mean something.


If the international teams played in the NBA, i think Argentina would be a legitimate contender, while Greece and Spain (and maybe France) would be at the 1st-2nd round.

At 9/02/2006 3:37 AM, Blogger bobduck said...

Re: European Teams in the NBA.

I don't think any of the Euro teams would fare especially well. I don't watch them with any regularity, but I get the sense that they are on the whole less athletic than their NBA peers. The squad most of those teams closely compare to is the Phoenix Suns, which we all know about.

I guess the Nets would be another teams the Euros compare to, but that's a far more athletic team.

The athleticism and the rules regarding zone would definitely hurt the Europeans, as would the expanded 3-point line. When they're forced to play man-to-man or a loose zone against an NBA team, some holes in their depth and in the defensive deficiencies of their players might be exposed.

Also, if they did play in the League, the scouting on them would go far beyond the "5 guys named Nikos" level, and into some serious tendency shit.

I don't know how long the European season is, or how many games, but the daily wear could also take its toll.

I would put the cap on first NBA season wins at a generous 42, maybe more in the Eastern Conference.

At 9/02/2006 4:13 AM, Anonymous Sourounis said...


there is no such thing as a european season, because each country has a different system. What happens is this:

Each country has its national league, and its national cup. That is, in each country there are 2 competitions. The same teams participate in those competitions. The league also includes playoffs.

In addition to this, there's the euroleague, a european competition. In the euroleague, only last year's national champs compete. A final four system exists in the euroleague.

Bottom line is that the top euro teams, play 50-55 games per year. There is a difference with the NBA, but not so dramatic.

At 9/02/2006 11:23 AM, Anonymous aug said...

Defense is definitely very difficult for the US as a really good zone defense, usually requires the team to play really well together for more than a few weeks. They also didn't seem to know the greek players at all, as if there wasn't even a scouting report on them. Even the announcers were almost getting tired of saying "The US makes another mistake by guarding(the greek guard whose name i can't spell) because everyone in europe knows that he's not an outside shooter but will kill you on the drive". The US kept going under or over picks at the wrong time. Given it's very difficult to choose when the 3 point line is so short, which makes defending the high pick and roll impossible unless you have good scouting.

I think for 08, all they need is 2 shooting specialists(people don't respect wade and lebron's jumper in the nba all that much), and 2 more defensive minded players(doesn't have to be bowen, but players a bit more committed to defense like kobe). Also, have much much better scouting reports on the greek players and make work on a good zone. I think they should be able to win all their games.

Boy would i be giddy if kobe plays in 06 and 08. I wonder how different this would be if Gil and Kobe were in the fiba tourney? Everyone knows they probably have 2 of the most killer instincts in the nba. I'd feel that when the greeks started making a huge run, that kobe or gil would take great pleasure in destroying their hopes and dreams. The US most certainly needed an cold assasin like them this tourney.

At 9/02/2006 1:00 PM, Blogger Sparkles*_* said...

The US Men's team soundtrack, now available:


As a Canadian hockey and US b-ball fanatic, I'm I'm profoundly vexed by both nations' inability to dominate their respective sports vis a vis international competition.

These are truly the end of days, brothers and sisters.

At 9/02/2006 1:29 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

aug, you're right. as much as has been made of team USA's wide-eyed enthusiasm, it's nowhere near the earth from hell that kobe and arenas would bring to the table. i am not even convinced that wade knows anything about triumph without relative facility.

WV: lknix=dolan gives up and turns it into a plaything for little girls

At 9/02/2006 1:41 PM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

Well, Sparkles, you could probably lay the blame on the same reason for both: they're too used to dominating when using a system that they're very familiar with to adjust properly to a system that appears to be very similar; only it's not so much.

The isolation-heavy nature of the NBA and the physically-oriented nature of the NHL clash with the different international rules for both sports, giving teams who have played together longer and play by the international rules more regularly a huge advantage.

The NHL is coming around in terms of developing a more wide-open offensive-oriented game, so we'll see if this affects Team Canada (who has had a better success rate than Team USA over the last 6 years anyway).

I'm not so sure the US will win a gold medal or the equivalent again until they build a team specifically for the international rules, rather than taking the best NBA players and throwing them onto the court under the theory that it's all "ball".

As an example, it has been noted elsewhere that Melo may well be a better fit for the international game than he is for the NBA, making him an opposite of Wade and LBJ. Although as has been said earlier, it's more on the coaches and the schemes than it is on the players.

At 9/02/2006 2:08 PM, Anonymous Pichi Campana Aguanta said...

Krzyzewski might be reading FreeDarko. Here's what he had to say after the bronze medal win over Argentina:

What I think is that worldwide basketball is terrific. There are really three different games that are played by our country. We play an NBA game – that if the world played, it might be different results. Then there’s an international game, then there’s the collegiate game. So, when you cross-over from one to another, in worldwide basketball, I think it’s up for grabs. There are so many good teams and so many good coaches. The talent level worldwide has sky-rocketed. But, they are different things. It just depends on what you judge it by. If you judge it by international basketball, it’s wide open for everybody.

Also, you can type almost any combination of consonants surrounded with a "k" and ending with "ski" into google and it'll suggest "Krzyzewski"

At 9/02/2006 2:27 PM, Blogger there is no you or me without Suomi said...

Sous: I would feel and think the same if i saw an american team from NCAA.

The thing is, an NCAA team these days is just as likely to have at least one guy named Nikos/Mamadou/Zoran/Vladimir as it is a Durel, a Adam/Randy/Brandon/Rudy, or a LaMarcus.

At 9/02/2006 6:02 PM, Anonymous spider said...

How about this pic of the Golden Boys of 2003, accepting their bronze today? I don't recall ever seeing so much saluting in international athletics before. Their ready soldier act is a coincidental reminder of the fact that in 2003, we let militarism get the better of our polity...

At 9/02/2006 9:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That picture reminds me of Bush posing on that aircraft carrier...

At 9/02/2006 10:21 PM, Anonymous spider said...

Yes, and in both cases, the mission was not accomplished.

At 9/02/2006 11:51 PM, Anonymous fix_the_knicks said...

You all probably read Slate already, but if not, you can go see that Robert Weintraub
nicely summarizes
several of the points made here:

"The U.S. basketball team lost because they ran into an extremely hot Greek team in a one-and-done game. The Dallas Mavericks weren't better than the Miami Heat, but the Mavs won the first two games of the NBA Finals. If the U.S. took on Greece in a best-of-seven series, they'd almost certainly come out on top. In a one-game showdown, the Greeks obviously had a much better chance to win.

The biggest single reason for the loss was the Americans' failure to defend the high pick-and-roll. Greece ran this simple play on almost every possession after the first quarter, for layup after layup. The United States' lapses against the pick-and-roll don't have anything to do with the me-first nature of the American player, though. This was a deficiency in scouting—Coach K and his staff should have been better prepared for Greece's offense. But more than anything, team defense depends on reps and familiarity, something this hastily assembled team didn't have.

One thing I'd like to see is a full-time coach. K and his staff obviously can't start thinking about this tournament until April, and even then, you've got to imagine it takes a back seat to recruiting. Why not have somebody scouting these international teams all the time? Sourounis, do European teams have full-time coaches, or do they also have other committments? I know that every significant national soccer team has their own coach, including the US.

At 9/03/2006 9:06 AM, Anonymous Sourounis said...


There is no standard for european coaches. Yiannakis for example, who is the greek head-coach for the past 2 years, is also the coach for a greek club, for the past 4 years. The same thing happened with the Serbian team of the late 90's and early 00's, who had Obradovic as head-coach, while he was also the head-coach of european clubs.

Still, it's not unusual for a head-coach to work exclusively for his national team.

I think that USA coaching stuff had enough time for decent scouting during the tournament. Let's not forget that once you get beyond the group stage and into knock-out matches, you never know who your next opponent is going to be. So scouting within the toutnament is obligatory.


Btw, congratulations to the spanish team, they played an excellent game today, even without Pasol. They hammered us.

At 9/03/2006 9:46 AM, Anonymous m said...

I thought I would chime in to add a few comments to the discussion above. First of all, comparing national leagues with international tournaments is not very wise in any sport. Even in football (soccer) the teams playing in the world cup have nothing to do with the leagues they come from really. The reason the NBA is where it is, is not that the best basketball is played there, but it has the most money, the most marketing and the most promotion than any other league. At the moment most europeans are trying to get to the NBA because salaries are stagnant in Europe the past 2 years. Even good NBA teams have very good foreign players and good european teams have good US players. I am not dissing the NBA; I like a good fast break and slam dunk just as much as the next guy. However, basketball from a purely fundamentals point of view is played at a high level in many countries.

From the purists point of view, Greece simply played better basketball against the USA. The took the USA's best shot, came back from a deficit and were still standing. As did Spain today. Actually, Spain had a good defensive game plan and the Greeks just lost it after going down 20. The Greek team had no bite in them after going down 20.

Discussions of what would happen if team A or B played in the NBA playoffs are ridiculous. An international tournament has nothing to do with any league.

At 9/03/2006 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spain wins the tournament. They absolutely destroyed Greece like the Americans should've done. Garbajosa is going to be a good player for the raps.

At 9/04/2006 6:40 AM, Anonymous Alfred said...

Disclaimer: I'm European.

No one seriously discusses the difference in talent and athleticisim between the US team and the rest. I'd also like to think that most people understand that Argentina, Spain or Greece would not win 40 games in the NBA, because they lack the talent.

But all this doesn't detract from the fact that the US can't assemble a group of obviously talented players and win in the international competitions without serious preparation and motivation anymore. I feel that motivation is the issue that has been most overlooked and I don't really know how it can be solved. The US motivation will keep improving till they win a tournament, then they'll lose again because this is an afterthought for them.

As an aside, I found the Americans military salute when receiving the medals quite depressing. Many national teams are or have been involved in wars before without feeling the need to show it off in a sporting event. You don't go to the Olympics to 'support the troops'. You try to win the gold for your country and then graciously congratulate the competition.

At 9/04/2006 5:27 PM, Anonymous josh said...

I keep having images of Gilbert Arenas giving a Herzog jungle speech about Asia and Team USA.



Post a Comment

<< Home