Trail Blazers

U.S. men's basketball team must get serious about picking up pace

Trail Blazers

The U.S. Olympic men's basketball team did it again Monday night, losing an exhibition game to Australia, its second straight loss without a win.

OK, let’s get this out of the way – yes, they haven’t had a lot of time together, certainly not as much as the other national teams they have played.

But let me say, too, that all this talk about how good their opponents are is a joke. Nigeria had NBA players on its roster but certainly nobody who has ever gotten into an All-Star Game without buying a ticket.

Australia had a few more legit NBA players, but the U.S. allowed Patty Mills to almost single-handedly decide the game. I love Patty, but come on…

The Americans are still not playing hard. There’s that feel that they are taking these games as they would routine NBA preseason games, rather than important building blocks toward establishing a style of play and a winning culture for a team that has never been together as a group previously.

We’re seeing too much isolation, not enough pressure defense and poor pace.

That last factor is the first thing this team needs to address. When you have the most talent, it’s important that you increase the number of possessions in a game – taking away the fluke factor.

These teams want to get the U.S. team into a halfcourt, slow-paced game. The Americans can’t let that happen.


Make the sample size bigger!

The U.S. team is deep and talented – it should be pushing pace at every opportunity, pressuring on defense and getting plenty of shots up.

One of the problems for this team is that it needed more size and bulk for the international game. It may not rebound well. So, it must be more aggressive on the ball, turn teams over and get out on the break.

Don’t just run. RUN!

Fatigue? Use that deep bench, spread the minutes out and move the ball around, giving everyone a chance to contribute.

Faster pace will lead to more open-court situations, better shots and more of them, which should relax some tentative USA shooters.

Is Gregg Popovich ready to do that? Not sure. If he isn’t, I don’t think he was the right choice for this job. Mike D’Antoni would have been, but he isn’t there.

I still believe this team will win the gold medal – there’s simply too much talent on that roster to lose to teams featuring the likes of Matthew Dellavedova, who started alongside Mills at guard in a pocket-sized backcourt.

But I am already tired of hearing excuses for losing to squads that should be run off the floor by teams loaded with NBA stars.

The U.S. team scored 83 points vs. the Aussies, getting up just 65 shots and managing to get to the free-throw line only 12 times!

Exhibition game or not, that’s not nearly good enough.