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Youthful zeal

It's not always pretty, but the U.S. team is trying hard

Posted: Tuesday August 22, 2006 10:58AM; Updated: Tuesday August 22, 2006 12:20PM
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Dwyane Wade slams one home against Slovenia.
Dwyane Wade slams one home against Slovenia.

It's still early. Team USA has two more preliminary games to march through before facing the real tests at the World Championship tournament. Even so, it has become increasingly easier to appreciate this group of performers, especially after Tuesday's 114-95 win against Slovenia. The U.S. baited its opponent into an up-tempo attack while showcasing an efficient touch and an all-around sense of purpose.

Call me a jingoist, and damn me for damning these USA representatives with faint praise, but these players are trying. They're pushing to impose their style of basketball upon their opponents -- and while that may not seem like a huge deal, this is a giant step beyond the brand of influence the Team USA reps of 2002 and 2004 offered. This current group is less about style and more about substance, as they forge ahead with little regard for how well they come off or what numbers end up in the box score.

In a way, that last trait may have been exhibited to a smaller degree by the assembled outfits we saw in '02 and '04; those groups weren't exactly in it for the numbers. But they were nervous beyond belief about embarrassing themselves, and constantly compared their output with the kind of play that the 1992 Dream Team provided.

The purported leaders of those teams, nervous types George Karl and Larry Brown, hardly helped -- and the results were less than satisfactory. Meanwhile, the 2006 team, flush with 25-and-unders who don't know any better, can't help but pick up the pace, and the style of play. Their showing against Slovenia can only steel their reserve. This team is looking better with every quarter it plays.