Team USA took care of business against Iran, and that means nothing. Pop may have been talking about the fact that people in the States need to respect international basketball more, but I’m sure he wasn’t referring to Iran. The Czech Republic is a more serious game, but it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge as well. These two games were labeled as “chemistry games.” An opportunity for the team to finally get to know each other.
Much has been made about the fact this is the first time this group of players has been playing together. Other countries don’t have nearly as much talent, but they have a team identity – most of them have been playing together since they were all teenagers. Kevin Durant opposed that narrative, saying that “chemistry is good” on Team USA. Chris Bosh disagreed and explained why.
“They haven’t had a chance to have team chemistry. Even when we won the gold medal in ’06, that team was together for three years. Every summer we went back to Vegas we practiced, we worked on strategy and defense, we had the same coaching staff..”Chris Bosh, The Jump
Bosh misspoke here – Team USA lost to Greece in ’06, and that’s what raised the alarm and brought the Redeem Team together. The time in Vegas definitely helped to develop an identity, but as we all know, the team still almost lost to Spain in the ’08 Finals. Kobe tried to let LeBron and his generation take the reigns, but when he saw everyone was playing hot potato, Mamba showed up and took over in the 4th to bring the gold to the US.
I can think of a team that didn’t have time and several summers to develop chemistry and still won the gold. Not only that, they wanted to make it through the entire Olympic tournament without ever calling a time out – Dražen Petrović, Toni Kukoč, and the rest of the Croatian team ruined that plan in the Finals. The best player (if you look at the box scores) on The Dream Team called out Team USA and their chemistry excuses.
“They just have to play well. They got the best players. I don’t want you guys in the media making BS excuses for them that they haven’t been together that long and blah, blah, blah. Every Olympic team I’ve been on, they threw us together and said, ‘Go get it.’ Somebody has to step up and a be a leader. They just have to play great, bottom line.”Charles Barkley, USA Today
Barkley hit it right on the head – somebody has to step up and be a leader. Every team needs a pecking order, and that’s the hardest thing to establish on every superteam. Everyone is trying not to step on anyone’s toes, and that leads to your turn – my turn. Team USA is, without a doubt, the most talented team in Tokyo. If they don’t win the Gold, it will be primarily because the players didn’t have a come to Jesus moment where they establish a pecking order.
As much as they complain about Pop running the San Antonio offense, this is something the players have to do on their own.