The most scrutinized group of Team USA Men’s Basketball players – since the 2002 through 2006 team cycle – left the Rio Olympics with gold around their necks. In a way this team’s personality was similar to the career of its “leader” Carmelo Anthony. There were questions from the beginning about the strength of this team after so many stars had backed out. Melo and Kevin Durant were the only two players with Olympic experience. 6 players on the squad had no International experience at all.
The games started and Team USA blew through their first 7 opponents – 5 exhibition games and 2 Preliminary Round games in the Olympics – and many wondered if they’d be challenged. But then they faced Australia, Serbia, and France. The USA would only win those games by a combined total of 16 points while allowing an average of 92 points per game. And just like that the narrative flipped. They were no longer seen as an unbeatable team and the questions about there not being enough stars returned. Any of this talk of no defense and lack of “star” talent sound familiar to the narrative around Carmelo?
The Knockout Round started with a blowout victory over Argentina and a tight semifinal win over Spain. Both opponents had been familiar with Team USA over the last ten years. Argentina won Silver at the 2002 FIBA World Cup and Gold at the 2004 Olympics. During the 2002 FIBA World Cup they became the first team to defeat a USA Team composed of all NBA players. That defeat along with a few others led to Team USA revamping the way they selected players. Meanwhile Spain finished runner up to Team USA in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. This Olympics saw Team USA face Serbia in the Gold Medal Round. The game was close for a quarter. Then in the 2nd Quarter Kevin Durant took over and the game was out of reach. Durant finished the game with 30 points and renewed confidence heading to Golden State.
All types of things were being said about the US Men’s Basketball Team. They didn’t have enough star players. They didn’t move the ball enough – I harped on this a lot – or play the type of defense that was needed. They either won by too much or didn’t win by enough. They didn’t have any competition or maybe they do thought some after a few close games. The games aren’t entertaining some said and they need an age limit chirped some others. Yet after all of the noise, Team USA won the final game by 30 and defeated its last 3 opponents by an average of 21 points per game. Funny how they took in everything around them and kept Goin’ Hard in the Paint Like Carmelo.