I was among the one billion viewers tuned in Sunday morning as the United States routed China 101-70, the first step in what "Redeem Team" hopes will be a restoration of hoops pride that has been lost over the last half dozen years. And let me get this out of the way:
The U.S. can lose down the road in Beijing. I'm not saying it
Sunday's game turned, predictably, into a run-and-dunk contest in which the depth-lacking host team couldn't possibly compete. The U.S. had worn China down by early in the third quarter, then slipped into those open spaces created by fatigue for dunks and wide-open looks.
But don't think for a second that the Chinese represented much of a test. The early snapshot of that game -- the U.S. missing wide-open three-pointers, the Chinese draining the same shots whenever the U.S. gambled or double-teamed -- is what undoubtedly occupied the thoughts of the U.S. coaching staff when the game was over. Spain, Argentina and Greece all have better shooters, better defenders and, most importantly, more depth than China. Games against those teams will likely be close and turn on execution and three-point shooting. As the opponents become more formidable, the U.S. should have one primary thought on defense: Don't gamble. (That means you
China was the ideal opening opponent for the U.S., not strong enough to score an upset, but tall, reasonably talented and energized by the home crowd. To put things in perspective, the '92 Dream Team opened against Angola, a team that should never have even qualified since the entire African continent, at that point, had few organized leagues. But there are no global patsies anymore in the Olympics.
The U.S.-Angola game 16 years ago was more sideshow than competition. I remember
That game was also the one in which
That's how it was back then. The U.S. did what it wanted, on and off the court, and everything was fine. The U.S. was king and everyone else was serf.
Well, things are different now. This '08 team, led by Bryant and