Redeem Team gets revenge, defeats Greece

Greece beat Team USA two years ago in the World Championships, forcing the U.S. to settle for a bronze medal. It might have been a blessing in disguise for the Americans since it required them to play in the summer of 2007 to qualify for the Bejing Olympics. That extra work is paying dividends as Team USA’s collection of (mostly) All-Stars is starting to play better together, especially on the defensive end. Team defense is what has gotten them through the preliminary games, and it’s what allowed them to upend Greece, 92-69.

The Americans have started 3-0 in pool play without an effective long-range game. They have shot just 19 of 65 (29%) from behind the arc, which is something that has plagued the U.S. for some time. Coach K has elected not to use three-point specialist Michael Redd all that much, probably because his team is getting by without him. They continue to see a lot of zone, however, and as the competition gets tougher, they might need Redd’s shooting to open up things inside.

The team faces its toughest test of pool play when it faces unbeaten Spain at 10 AM (ET) on Saturday.

On a side note, one thing that struck me as odd as I was watching ESPN’s series “Road to Redemption” was just how much of a leadership role LeBron James has taken. Apparently, he’s constant talking, coaching and cracking jokes. But other than his tremendous talent, I just don’t see how LeBron qualifies as a leader of this particular team. He’s just 23 and hasn’t been around great coaching other than his summers with Team USA.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s one of the world’s best and is already basketball’s most athletic player, but he doesn’t strike me as a particularly heady guy. His shot selection is suspect, he gets out of position when he’s on the ball defensively and, other than a big jump in FG% from his rookie to his second season, he has failed to drastically improve any other part of his game. His 3PT% still hovers around 32% and his FT% has actually decreased from 75% his rookie season to 71% last year. Moreover, he has failed to recognize that by developing a good post game, he could literally dominate on the block. Where is that turnaround that made MJ so hard to guard? Where is the up-and-under?

Given his athletic ability, it seems like LeBron could be so much more. And for that reason, I’m not sure why anyone on Team USA would be spending a lot of time worrying about what he has to say.

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