After watching this weekend's embarrassment against Puerto Rico, I have decided that there is one thing missing from the USA Basketball team. It's not talent or defense or perimeter shooting or a true center. The thing this team lacks is the right talent. Although I agree with Lamar Odom's remark about pressure on the court compared to war, I think this attitude is also partially to blame. Do these games really mean anything to these guys, or are they just another way to market themselves? The world has shown that USA Basketball can no longer throw a team together and expect everyone else to play for the silver medal. These are quality teams that are playing with a purpose. The games may not be life or death for anyone but the rest of the world is playing like it is for them. As Kentucky fans, we understand that being the best means expecting every team's best effort every game. Imagine how magnified it is when you put on a USA uniform. We are still the measuring stick and the one team that everyone gets up for. It takes a lot of pride and sacrifice to deal with that day in and day out and I'm not sure most of these guys can handle that. I would be willing to wager that the original Dream Team, even at their advanced ages and declining skills, wouldn't lose to Puerto Rico (or anyone else) by double digits. In their day, those guys wouldn't have lost if they played five on three but they still played hard and as a team because they understood what it meant to wear the red, white, and blue. We all know that the quality of world basketball has improved tremendously since 1992, but does anyone doubt that we still have more than enough talent to expect a gold medal ever four years? I don't doubt it at all. What we need is the right talent. So, once again, I offer my suggestion. Fill the roster with guys who want to be there. No, fill the roster with guys who dream about being there. How do we do that? One word, tryouts. Why not? Do you think anyone who doesn't think he needs to practice (Hello, Co-Captain Iverson) is going to want to try out? I doubt it.
I have heard arguments for going back to the college players or paying the pros that play, but I say, open it up to both. I think a nice blend of youthful exuberance and battle-tested experience would be the way to go. Give me Jamir Nelson and Chris Paul over Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury at the point any day. And what do Lamar Odom and Amarie Stoudamire know about winning? Give me Tayshaun Prince and Shane Battier. No outside shooters? I'll take Ben Gordon, Delonte West, Gerry McNamara, and Matt Freijie. Now we need some muscle, I think the current team lacks the intimidation and general nastiness that Barkley and Ewing brought to the Dream Team. I'll take Ben Wallace, Lawrence Roberts, and Jamal Magloire. The only holdovers would be Tim Duncan and Dwayne Wade. Would this be the most talented team possible? Not even close, but I bet Coach Brown could get these guys to play his way. And speaking of his way, why not use the one advantage we have no matter who is on the team, quality depth. I don't think there is any doubt that no team is capable of matching up with us from players 1-12. I say we get up and down the court and run them out of the gym. Get up in their faces on defense and make them put the ball on the floor, even pressing full court at times if necessary. Force these teams to use their benches and substitute often and I like our chances against anyone.
So, what is the answer to the question? What is wrong with USA Basketball? The answer is quite simple really. It's not the attitude of the players, I think they are playing hard and giving their best effort. Nor is it the coaches, everyone knows Larry Brown is one of the best there is. The problem is the way the players are chosen and who is doing the choosing. Get the coaching staff together and let them decide whom they want on their team. Whether it is the 12 best players in the NBA or not does not matter. What does matter is sending the best team possible, and I don't believe we are doing that today.