In case you missed it, the team that will represent the U.S. in Beijing this summer is now set. Here is a list of the players:
You have to admit that team looks powerful. But then again we’ve sent several powerful-looking teams into international competition lately and it hasn’t turned out so well. If you pressed me, I’d say that team has to be favored to win the gold. But on the other hand it’s not really a team and that always makes me suspicious.
The first thing you have to ask is whose squad this is. With only a couple exceptions each of these players is The Man on their own teams. Everybody knows it. That’s how roles are determined and order kept. You don’t need that kind of hierarchy every night but when the chips are down (or sometimes even just when you practice) it helps you have enough discipline to fly straight. Who fills that designation here? Probably none of them. The team isn’t set up that way. Similarly, few of these guys are used to sacrificing themselves to dive on the floor or set a hard pick that doesn’t ever lead to a scoring opportunity for them. How long has it been since these guys played a game where they got three shots? How long has it been since they’ve played a game without the ball being in their hands most of the time? Who’s the back-up point guard here and why? Does the point guard even matter that much, and if not what are those two PG superstars doing there? Does adding Michael Redd for shooting matter either if you’re going to play Bryant and Wade in front of him? And will he be the same deadeye shooter coming in cold as a situational player that he is when he’s the centerpiece? Will Dwight Howard get enough chance to shine? And what the sam heck is Jason Kidd doing on this team?
In short, I dislike this whole All-Star approach that we keep taking. I guess I’m not advocating we take lesser players just because they’re lesser. I’m saying that lineups like this are the equivalent of putting Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, and Captain Janeway on the bridge. We don’t need another captain, we need Mr. Sulu, dangit! And we need Mr. Laforge somewhere. And we need a red-shirted security dude to beam down and get killed so the main guys don’t have to. I don’t see those people on this team…or to the extent that I do they’re unlikely to get a lot of playing time.
I wish we could arrange it that the Finals winners go over and play. Or the Finals losers. Or even the two Finals teams combined together and sorted down to twelve. That way you could have a coach pick his vital utility guys along with the superstars. You’d also have guys who were used to playing together instead of a multi-million dollar fantasy version of Summer League scrimmage going up against the best international squads.
In the end we can’t resist the temptation to value name over cohesion. Put in that position maybe I wouldn’t be able to either. I wouldn’t be surprised if we win the gold, but then again I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t either.