Rest of world looks flat for Team USA
After America’s dismal showings in the previous three World Championships as well as the 2004 Olympics, what exactly does Team USA’s victory in Turkey portend for the future of red-white-and-blue basketball?
The undeniable reality is the value of the competition in Turkey should not be overrated. As glorious as winning the gold was, this was not an NBA championship. In fact, the New Jersey Nets would have been at least the fourth- or fifth-best team had they participated in the tournament. A New Jersey-USA final would not have been unthinkable.
The opponents were slower and vastly less talented than the Americans. And none of them could ever hope to win more than 15 games if it were to compete in an NBA season. However, a team can only beat the teams it plays. And Team USA’s forming a cohesive unit while young players were facing unfamiliar rules was still a difficult undertaking, no matter how inferior the competition.
So hosannas to the highest for Team USA’s accomplishment.
For sure, Spain, Argentina, France and Brazil were missing their best players, but so was Team USA. The difference is that, in the 2012 Olympics, the likes of Manu Ginobili (who will be 33), Andres Nocioni (31), Jose Calderon (31) and Pau Gasol (32) will no longer have young legs and spry bodies. Two more long, grueling NBA seasons will undoubtedly diminish their capabilities.
Of course, new star-quality players will just as certainly evolve in these (and other) of the upper-echelon international teams. But unless these guys wind up in the NBA before the 2012 Olympics convene, they’ll be the young and relatively inexperienced players.
Plus, there weren’t more than one or two foreign players in the recently concluded festivities who looked to have the potential to be impactful NBAers in the immediate future. The truth is the best non-American hoopers are those who have had significant roles on NBA teams.
At the same time, the NBA is loaded with outstanding young players who will still be peaking two years from now: Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo (who will have a deadly jumper by then), Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Roy and so on and on and on … Plus, Kobe Bryant will be 34, and since he’s arguably the best-conditioned and most highly motivated player in the NBA, he’ll still have plenty of at least part-time game left.
The continuity of Coach K and his staff, as well as the pool of available and experienced players unequivocally guarantees that future Teams USA will also be world-beaters. Moreover, with USA Basketball having learned the sad lessons of the past, chronically selfish players (like Allen Iverson) and emotionally unstable players (like Stephon Marbury) are definitely verboten, no matter how talented they might be. Only upstanding citizens need apply.
It should also be noted the international spotlight (especially in the Olympics) has become increasingly appealing to more and more of the NBA’s established stars.
A more practical consideration is that, in winning the World Championships, Team USA gains automatic entry into the 2012 Olympic tournament. Not having to play in a hard-fought qualifying tournament before the Olympics will keep the NBA players fresh, eager and hopefully less vulnerable to injuries.
It says here that the highest-ranked international teams no longer have the personnel, the continuity nor the chemistry to compete on even terms with even B-quality teams of NBA veterans.
Unless some unforeseen tragedy of cosmic proportions occurs, the United States is now restored to, and will continue to maintain, its rightful place as the world’s basketball superpower.