Ever since the great American basketball disaster in 2004, the USA Men’s basketball team has played together as a team. No country has been a contest for this all-star roster, beating all the main contenders with their tenacious defense.
The opposing countries have not been able catch up to USA’s depth or defense. Even the great NBA players around the world say they are having trouble standing up to the USA’s all-star bench and defense. China has Yao Ming, Argentina has Manu Ginobli, Germany has Dirk Nowitzki, and Spain has Paul Gasol — all have lost to team USA. However, these major stars are not intimidated or even especially impressed with this American “Redeem team.”
Since the stunning loss to Argentina 89-81 in 2004, the “Redeem Team” has to play with a different intensity and a different focus. So far, being 6-0, they have done just that.
The U.S. is forcing 22.8 turnovers per game and scoring nearly 20 points off turnovers per game. The Americans are holding teams to 37 percent shooting from the field and 27 percent from 3-point range. They are making other teams work. They have won their first four games by an average of 28 points a game.
The Americans have been so successful on the defensive-end because they talk to each other and call each other out.
USA assistant coach Nate McMillan, the Portland TrailBlazers coach, said it took a lot of time to develop relationships to the point where everyone could speak plainly and bluntly. “We wanted them to open up and talk so we wanted them to have a bond and not be afraid,” McMillan said. “One thing Coach K said was, ‘Let’s be honest with each other. … If one guy is not doing what he’s supposed to do — do it, say it.”
And they do tell each other when they mess up.
What does this tell the world and its most devout fans?
“It tells people we’re here to play,” Bryant said. “But we’re here to scrap. We’re here to do the dirty work. We’re going to do all the little things necessary to win this thing.”
Basketball has come a long way since years ago when the Dream Team dominated Olympic basketball. With players like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan there was no contest. They were so good that opponents were proud to lose. Opponents would ask if they could give them their shirt or shoes after the game.
Today, the world knows how to play basketball. Their opponents are not interested in souvenirs or having their pictures taken with the Americans; they’re interested in winning.
Wednesday, after beating Australia 116-85, the U.S. team is looking to win two for their first gold medal in a major international competition since the 2000 Sydney Games.