Friday, August 20, 2004

Dream Team - Not

I wish they would stop calling the current US Olympic basketball team "the dream team." What kind of dream is this? Losing to Puerto Rico, squeaking by Greece, if this is our dream team we really are living in a time of diminished expectations.

This really isn't a new complaint for me. I never liked the idea of "Dream Team 2" or any of the teams since. Even though none of those teams ever lost a game in international competition they weren't the same. Dream Team 1 - THE Dream Team - went through the entire Olympics without calling a time out. They averaged 7 turnovers per game. They weren't just the best we had to offer, they were special; not just stars, but mostly students of the game, as interested in stifling defense as in sizzling offence, as proud of making the perfect assist as of making a thundering dunk. Since then we haven't really approached what we rolled out the first time.

The whole reason for letting the pros play was to re-establish the dominance of American basketball players. Pro players from other countries were habitually outplaying the cream of our college crop. Sending the top echelon of NBA players helped to right things. Interestingly, in the interim, the players for other teams have become NBA all stars, and our Olympic players are once again becoming more like college players. Although we didn't sent NCAA players to Athens, several of the players have just one or two years of NBA play under their belts. Many international teams have players on their rosters with more NBA experience. How did we let this happen.

Add the character and experience issues to team chemistry issue and you see what happens. Chemistrywise the other nations have always had an advantage, playing together all year, year after year while the US team got only a few months of practice. Maybe we need to change our selection process.

The Olympics are contested every four years. Perhaps the NBA champions of each of the intervening years should play a qualifying tournament to represent the US. Would have been nice to have had a little playoff between the Lakers and the Pistons to see who would go to the Olympics. There are some problems here. The winning team would likely have some international players who would play for their countries teams, and some of the American players could have either retired, been traded, or incarcerated between the championship and the Olympics. This could be overcome by having the winning coach allowed to draft replacement players for his team from that season's all star game. The NBA and USA Basketball should structure things that if you aren't injured you should have to play.

Like anyone should have to be COMPELLED to go to the Olympics.

Which brings me back to character. Here's what has really been eating me. I firmly believe that if you fielded Dream Team 1 today against the current Olympic team - as they are, no time travel - that Barkley, Bird, Drexler, Ewing, Johnson, Jordan, Laettner, Mullin, Pippen, Robinson, & Stockton would still win. Fundamentals, defense, unselfishness, and love of the game will beat flash every time.

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