The US A-Team: Thoughts from the Beginning of Olympic Men’s Basketball Play

Editor’s Note:  Sebastian Henao is a friend I met while attending LSU. He is one of the more passionate and observant fans of basketball and the NBA that I know, and he has offered to provide some analysis and – as you can see – color commentary on basketball at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Jason Kidd, LeBron James and Chris Paul celebrate gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics
LeBron James and Chris Paul are back for Team USA in defense of the gold medal. 

Before I begin, I would love to thank Mary Carillo, Olympics tennis commentator, for introducing me to the NBC Olympics Live Extra app. You have saved me from another Dan Patrick monologue about his love for the L.A. Kings. If you own cable and need to get your updates, live feed, and replays, this is a must! (See our post on how to Live Stream the Olympics)

What if I told you that you can choose the best 12 players in the world and put them on one team? What if I also told you that we will move the 3-point line three feet closer so your best player can be even more versatile? Finally what if I told you that you were playing against Boris Diaw? Is that something you might be interested in?

For our casual fans, Boris Diaw is an NBA player. Unfortunately, he has the motor of a sloth after eating a Grand Slam at Denny’s. Throughout the Olympics, the U.S. of A will be playing scrubs like this. Watching USA versus France taught me a few things.

Kings at Court 

First, no matter how much international talent has increased, USA will always be the kings of basketball. Led by the current King James of South Beach, Coach K (Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski) has enlisted an army even Leonidas would fear. Although the losses of Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and Chris Bosh have diminished our front court, have you watched the NBA lately? The days of Sky Hook and The Dream Shake are over.

Enter Run n’ Gun and a million free throws. Both NBA finals teams – the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder – which consisted of two former Olympians and four current ones, led the league in free throws. Coach K knows his team’s strengths and knows them well. His job is to control all these superstars and stop them from making my second point relevant.

Recklessness!!!

Keeping such an up-tempo offense also has its weaknesses. If you are at a bar or watching the game with your boys, you may hear a few common phrases. “Why did you take that shot?” “Quit turning the ball over.” “Just give the ball to Durant.” High tempo offenses have just as much risk as reward. Turnovers and forced jumpers are very common in such game plans. At the end of the 1 st quarter, the US led France by only 1 because they made 7 out of 24 shots. Unfortunately, no one gave the French a memo that the 2 best players on Team USA were run n’ gun specialists.

Imagine a 265-pound behemoth running the floor either jamming it in your face or passing the ball to someone with the prettiest shot in the NBA. Did I forget to mention that the shooter is also 6’10 with a 7’5 wingspan? I just described either a giraffe and a rhino or LeBron and Durant. Either way, there is no way those two should be on the same team let alone the same watering hole.

Parity or Unfair-ity

Touching on my last point, there is no reason why these guys should be on the same team. It is just unfair. I know this might upset people, but I think the 23 and under rule is a great idea. (One proposal is to have basketball follow the same rules as soccer, by which countries may have no more than three players over the age of 23). I love the drama, the emotion, and the feel-good stories during the Olympics. The only emotion I got out of this game is Melo getting up in de Colo’s face yelling, “YOU WANT TO GO NIGHT NIGHT!”

I also feel like I’m watching Space Jam 2, except this time the MonStars win and the French are working like slaves at Six Flags. As a basketball fan, I love watching teams like the Spurs dismantle teams with their teamwork and high basketball IQ and watching Chris Paul make scrubs like Aaron Gray and Jannero Pargo look like Olympians.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I love Space Jam, and I love Team USA. If we don’t get 10 alley oops a game, then I’m disappointed. I hope Parker lets me come back for a sequel so I can give you a more in-depth background on the final four teams.

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