Thursday, October 04, 2007
USA BASKETBALL and MINNESOTA SPORTS
First, I have to spend some time talking about Team USA Basketball. I watched every minute of every game, sometimes depriving myself of much needed sleep in the process.
I start by saying I am ALWAYS excited about the new USA team. The collection of talent they manage to get seems to enthrall me, making me forget everything I know and love about team sports, and instead focusing me directly on the spectacular athletes and their individual achievment. In this way, I am typically American.
But this team feels different. A huge nod goes to Coach K, and the appointing of him by Colangelo. Here is a guy who has nothing at all to prove (he Coaches a very successful Duke program), no ties to the NBA (he recently turned down a job coaching the Lakers to stay with Duke), and a proven record of making teams out of selfish stars.
And with him at the helm, team USA also held, for the first time, try-outs. First the player had to be invited, then he had to actually make the squad. Several stars, including Marbury and new comer Kevin Durant, were left off the team because they did not fit the concept. This was not going to be a colelction of stars, but a committed team of players who knew how to lead AND follow, how to win AND succeed.
We crushed opponents at the FIBA Americas. It was spectacular watching these guys play TOGETHER, to really buy into te team concept and help each other win. This is a squad with three superstars who are used to carrying the team all by themselves. LeBron, Kobe, and Carmelo all have that duty on any given night. Yet they found ways to better each other and themselves, and really shared the role of leader.
I was impressed with the growth of Howard as well. He looked so much more mature than the last olympics, and really seemed to embrace the international rules (becoming the first to ever successfully goaltend in Team USA history--a history that included David Robinson and Shaq)
Teh on floor leadership of Jason Kidd, who actually did not attepmt a single shot in the first game, really shined. He set up every single player, played ferocious defense, and set the pace for the whole tourney.
Kobe took the challenge of guarding the best player on the floor every night, and made tourney-leading scorer Barbosa settle for single digits on a horrid (18%) shooting night.
All that being said, this was the JV league. We were playing untalented, hodgepodge teams or depleted squads. It was good tune up, but it means nothing at all.
Here are the keys to winning the whole thing, and bringing the Gold back to where it belongs:
*We have to continue the three point shooting. This is a shooter's tounament, with a truncated three line, and more linient offensive rules. Every other team will look to score in threes, and we cannot trade those for easy twos, no matter how tempting it is.
*Carmelo Anthony has to stay healthy. Something about this kid is made for international ball. He scores in bunches, and never hurts the team. He makes very few errors, and is a vocal, passionate leader.
*Kobe cannot have a bad day. This is not about his shooting, or technique, or will. This is about his attitude. When Kobe feels slighted, or in a rutt, or something in his life sets him off, he can forget his teammates. He did it once in this tourney, and it didn't matter. When the competition gets tough, it could prove the end. This is single elimination. The team can ill afford a 50 point night in a loss.
*D-Wade has to find his role. This team just played a whole tournament together. Now one of the few bright spots of the last olympics is coming back. What will his role be? Will he take important minutes from the Big three? Will he come off the bench, or move out of position? Will his game fit with the new couaching system? A lot of big questions for one of the best talents in the NBA.
I think this is the closest we will ever come to the Dream Team. The competition is better, but honestly still not good enough. What will bet this team is lack of focus, or lack of team play. With Coach K, neither SHOULD happen
A CHAT WITH A FAN
Minnesota sports are in the shitter. The Wolves, Ughh. While I am back and forth on what the KG trade does to us, I know this: we are going to be a young team with a lot of growing pains for at least the next three years. We do not have a coach, a GM, or an owner worth a piss. It will get much worse before it gets better.
And still, I am excited for all the young talent we have. If one of the three guys leaves (actually, it will take two of the above going to make a difference) we can turn the whole thing around with the talent we have. What will hold us back (and it will, trust me) is the lack of direction, leadership, and coaching the team has now. McHale and Whittman have to go. Now.
The Vikings stink. That's it. All the talent in the world won't fix them. We need a QB and people to catch what he throws. We won't get both for years. We have too many running backs, and no one to trade them too, and we dont want to trade them, anyway. A line that good should not be wasted on a QB that bad. How much time does he need to find an open man? Honestly, and without boast, I could do a better job. I know probably half a dozen guys who could do a better job. An aging nobody and a young hack are our only hopes.
It is to the point that the only team in Minnesota worth watching play the most horrible sport in the world: Hockey.
At least the Wild have talent, a great coach, and a dedication to the franchise and fans. Going to a game would not feel like a waste of time, even though they are grown men fighting poorly and for no good reason while pretending the goal is to score. They pretend better than the other "professionals" in MN do, and in doing so they have entertainment value.
A sportswriter here said you can go to the Wild games to get value and entertainment. You can go to the Timberwolves just to be entertained. You can't find either with the Vikings.
How true is that.