Team USA still has trust issues

Call me unpatriotic, but at times during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, it was tough to root for the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team. Helmed by Larry Johnson (boy was that a bad choice), Team USA was young, fragmented and couldn’t shoot. For the most part, the competition in Athens played together, proving the old adage that a sum can be greater than total of its individual parts. Teams like Greece and Argentina ran fluid, smart offense and played gritty defense – stuff that would make James Naismith proud.

Truthfully, the bronze medal finish was just what American basketball needed. It served as a wake up call that the rest of the world hadn’t just caught up to Team USA, it had passed them by.

Enter former Suns owner and four-time NBA Executive of the Year, Jerry Colangelo, who became the national director of Team USA. He immediately decided to hire legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to helm the team. Tired of the revolving door access to Team USA, in 2005 Colangelo required a three-year commitment that would take the program through the 2008 Bejing Olympics.

While the team has made progress defensively and (generally) playing together, offensively things are still a little rough. Team USA is at times sloppy, playing too fast and chucking up bad shots when an open jumper is two passes away. It’s difficult for NBA stars to check their egos at the door and pass up what they believe to be a good shot to eventually get a great one.

The team looked pretty good in a recent series of warm-up games against Turkey, Russia and Lithuania. They did not, however, look very good against Australia, even though they were playing without the Milwaukee Bucks’ Andrew Bogut.

The team added long range bomber Michael Redd (right) to shore up its shooting, but only he and Carmelo Anthony are consistent deep threats. Anyone on the team can get hot, but only the perimeter shooting of ‘Melo and Redd strikes fear in the hearts of the opposition. I’m afraid what will happen if both players have a bad game.

ESPN has been running a series called “Road to Redemption” that follows Team USA in its preparation both on and off the court. Essentially, it’s a fluff piece with all the players talking about how great everyone is and how much fun it is to play on Team USA. The footage from the meetings reveals a serious side to all of this; there is incredible pressure on the team to return with the gold medal. Failure is not an option.

Team USA opens up on Sunday at 10:15 AM ET against Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian and the rest of the Chinese team.

Here’s the complete schedule:

vs. China: Aug. 10, 10:15 a.m. ET
vs. Angola: Aug. 12, 8 a.m. ET
vs. Greece: Aug. 14, 8 a.m. ET
vs. Spain: Aug. 16, 10:15 a.m. ET
vs. Germany: Aug. 18, 8 a.m. ET
Quarterfinals: Aug. 20
Semifinals: Aug. 22
Finals: Aug. 24

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