U.S. finally finds right approach to world competition
Posted: Wednesday August 9, 2006 9:58AM; Updated: Wednesday August 9, 2006 12:38PM
Under Mike Krzyzewski's guidance, Team USA has tried to focus its athletic gifts on playing defense.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Chalk this up to typical American hubris if you'd like. Lord knows we have a hard time admitting to ourselves that we're not king of the hill in other world affairs, so why should basketball be any different? All over the globe, conventional wisdom holds that the United States is no longer the hoops superpower it once was. The evidence is everywhere -- a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics, a humiliating sixth-place finish in the '02 World Championships. The world has caught up to the United States in basketball, right? It's the logical, fashionable conclusion, so why does it seem so hard to swallow here in the States?
Because it's nonsense.
The depth of basketball talent and expertise in the United States still far surpasses that of any other country in the world. If only our oil reserves were as deep as the hoops know-how in this country. The gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world isn't as big as it once was, but it's still wide enough to drive a tank through, and now that USA Basketball has changed its approach to international competition, American basketball superiority is about to become self-evident again. In other words, the U.S. is about to get back to kicking some international fanny.
That might sound overconfident, given that the Americans narrowly escaped with a 90-86 victory over Brazil on Tuesday, but there are plenty of signs that the U.S. is back, including its blowout wins over Puerto Rico and China (minus Yao Ming) last week in their series of tune-ups for the World Championships later this month. The most encouraging one is the style of play that U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski has adopted. He has the U.S. team extending the defense, pressuring opponents on the perimeter and making it difficult for them to get into their offenses. He has the personnel to do that, not only with stars like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade but with defensive-oriented role players such as Bruce Bowen and Shane Battier.