Follow this approach and the U.S. will be back on top
Posted: Friday September 1, 2006 12:24PM; Updated: Friday September 1, 2006 12:24PM
The U.S. should give more minutes to big men such as Dwight Howard.
Junko Kimura/Getty Images
Another summer, and another disappointing run for Team USA. By losing in the semifinals to Greece, the Americans will now have to qualify for the 2008 Olympics by winning next summer's Tournament of the Americas -- and even that's no sure victory.
How can Team USA recover from this loss, and move back to the top of the medal stand? Here are five ways to work it out:
1. Keep perspective
The worst thing the U.S. braintrust can do is overreact and get to the wringing of the hands. At the end of this run in Japan (the bronze game is Saturday), the final tally still shows a team full of 25-and-unders that won handily in its first seven games before getting systematically dismantled by a sturdy veteran squad in its eighth.
The team that started exhibition play on Aug. 3 was markedly different than the one that fell by six to Greece a month later. Although Team USA will again fall short of the gold medal, significant achievements have been made to the program.
The game has changed, and international basketball has gotten really, really good. This fact cannot be sloughed off. Team USA dominated in the '90s by using the principal avatars of the NBA's greatest generation against an international landscape watered down by the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
Asking a group whose average birth date came in the months following Michael Jordan's 1982 NCAA game-winner against Georgetown to thrive in this newer landscape is a bit much -- especially when you consider that these players started practicing with each other in mid-July, and their competitors started scrimmages around July 1997.
In the meantime, the attitudes have changed. Frustrating as its failings may be, this squad has an increased sense of perspective compared to the 2002 and 2004 lots. Team USA has realized its place in the international stage, and though it should be disappointed with the final result in the World Championships, much has been gained. So the next step is to ...
2. Keep the core
The second-nastiest thing the braintrust can do is blow up this roster. There is plenty to pick on with this group, whether you're watching its loss to Greece, or iffy showings against teams like Italy and Germany; but the bulk of this roster has to remain.
Consistency and familiarity are the traits that will put Team USA back at the top of the international scene -- and though it'd be beyond moronic to send an actual NBA team to play in 2007's Tournament of the Americas or the 2008 Olympics, it wouldn't hurt to foster that ideal among this group of All-Stars.