I've finally finished watching the USA wins over Puerto Rico (box score) and China (box score), and here are my thoughts on the games, in no particular order:
There were some early game jitters. Not as much in the China game, but in the Puerto Rico game, the US started slowly. They missed some early jumpers and they just looked out of it. You could tell that they were really excited and really wanted to play well. Eventually they settled down.
Puerto Rico's guards gave the US trouble. The Puerto Rican guards were all experienced international players and they gave the US fits. It always seemed like they were the lane making a "Steve Nash floater".
China's guards? Not so much. The Chinese team was playing for '08 meaning: get the young players some experience, let them get beat, let them face these guys one-on-one (China didn't play any zone at all). China has experienced big men, but the guards couldn't get Yao the ball on the post cleanly. If a team is going to beat the US in this tournament, they are going to need very strong guard play.
Melo looks damn good. The talk of team USA's training camp was that Carmelo Anthony was a man on a mission; he wanted to prove he belongs in Wade and LeBron's class. Point well taken. Carmelo has dominated while staying within the flow of the offense. He's gotten a ton of points, but in a variety of ways. He hit some threes, he drove the lane, he posted up, he got some jumpers off of screens; he's done it all.
Wade scores in bunches. Wade will go stretches of time where you forget he's even out there, but then he'll just rattle off 6 points in a blink of an eye. A jumper here, a layup here and then a break away dunk. Just like that he'll go from 'playing in the flow of the game' to dominating. He's pretty good.
LeBron looks lost. Now hold on, hear me out. The worlds remind me a lot of LeBron in high school. LeBron could've averaged 50 points a game for SVSM, but he didn't. He played within the flow of the game and got his teammates involved. To me, it looks like LeBron is trying to do too much. He's often looking for that spectacuar pass and trying to make a play. He's really been looking to set guys up and he takes himself out of the flow of the game.
LeBron's jumper = not pretty. LeBron may not have confidence in his own shot right now, he's taken some ugly looking jumpers (he's 0-3 from three and he's 2-6 from the line). He is fading away a lot, and most of the time it's unnecesary. His jumper could be another reason why he's looking to pass so much. You can tell he is still figuring out how he wants to play on this team. In the NBA, the Cavs need him to score a lot for them to win, but Team USA is filled with scorers, so he's looking to set up his teammates.
Player who has impressed me so far? Dwight Howard. Howard has been what John Madden would call a Manster; half man, half monster. He blocked a shot with his God-damned elbow. His freaking elbow. He may have have elicited the most 'ooos' and 'aahhs' from the crowd with his monster dunks. Howard seems to have embraced a role player role on this team; plays don't get run for him, he crashes the boards with a fury and collects rebounds like a man possessed.
Player who has disappointed me so far? Chris Bosh. I was really looking forward to see Bosh in action, as I don't get to watch a lot of Raptor games. Bosh looks a bit lost out there, like he doesn't know his role. He's really thin and doesn't have the strength to overpower people like Howard does. It's only been two games, but Bosh hasn't looked comfortable out there.
Speaking of role players. Joe Johnson has become Team USA's three point specialist. He is always taking (and making) threes. You know Johnson can do more than just hit jumpers, but he also seems to have embraced his role player role. As has Shane Battier (who starts with Johnson, along with James, Hinrich and Jamison). Everytime I look up I see Battier taking a charge or diving on the ground. He's doing the dirty work.
Team USA has good point guards. Both Hinrich and Paul have played really well. Paul seems to be able to get to the lane whenever he wants. Paul looks like he has a little bit of LeBron syndrome; he's not looking to score enough. There have been a few times where Paul has made an extra pass in a situation where it would've been better for him to take the shot himself. He's being too unselfish. That is a good problem to have. Kirk Hinrich looks really comfortable out there; the more and more I watch this kid the more and more he reminds me of Mark Price. Hinrich always seems to be in the lane making some kind of play, and he is money at the 3 from the corner (it's like a layup for him).
The captains are always on the floor. You rarely see a play where at least one captain isn't out there. LeBron has started so far, with Wade and Melo coming off the bench, and each guy leads the unti they're out there with (if that makes sense). They play together as well, I love the Hinrich, Wade, Melo, LeBron and Howard lineup. Scrumtulescent
I really don't want Kobe on this team in '08. I also don't want Chauncey Billups or Paul Pierce. This team is like a new (next) generation of players. This team is Wade, LeBron and Melo's team. This is their generation. Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kirk Hinrich and Chris Bosh were all from the same draft class (2003). Dwight Howard was from the following year and Chris Paul the year after that (2004 and 2005). And the older players on this team, Elton Brand (1999), Brad Miller (1998), Joe Johnson, Shane Battier (both 2001) and Antawan Jamison (1998)? These are the under appreciated players from the previous generation of stars; these guys are just now getting their due. But Kobe (1996), Chauncey Billups (1997) and Paul Pierce (1998) have already gotten their time in the spot light (Billups not as much, but he did get mad love after the championship). They're established stars, they are from the generation who passed up these international competetions. I don't want to see this team gel together and win a gold, only to have it's chemistry screwed up by adding Pierce, Bryant and Billups in 2008. I feel like the under appreciated older players and the newer, younger supstars work really well together. I'm not sure how the older superstars (Pierce and Kobe) will work out with the younger ones (James and Wade). And honestly? I don't want to see them play; I've seen them play, I want to see the young guys now (and guys like Brand and Johnson, who never get to be on TV due to their teams).
I am mad at Yahoo! I've been taping the games, which have aired at 1 AM and 6:30 AM respectively and purposfully not reading any sports webpages until I watch the games. But I go to check my email at Yahoo! and they have the USA-China score on their front page news stories. Damn you Yahoo!
I like Chris Broussard. I like Broussard, he's one of the only guys who hasn't bought into the 'Wade is better than James because Wade has a championship' theory. I heard him on the radion saying how stupid that argument is, saying, "all that means is Shaq is better than Z". I totally agree, however, I really agree with his blog's take on Team USA (insider).
Don't put a whole lot into Team USA's win over China. China wasn't really playing to win that game. They were playing a lot of man to man, to give their young guys an idea of how fast the US team is. They really want to beat the US in 2008, not right now. Team USA faced almost no zone defense in the China game, which played right into the US style of basketball the NBA players love so much. When facing the better teams, the US is going to face a ton of zone defense; the game versus China didn't prepare them for anything coming down the road.