By Craig Kwasniewski
Team USA barely edges Brazil 90-86, Carmelo Anthony gets injured and Anderson Varejao of all people drops 11 points and 16 boards. Is this a repeat of Athens 2004? Is disappointment on the horizon? Are we to be concerned?
Unless Larry Brown in sitting on the bench (along with his "it's not my fault, it's the players fault" mentality), I'm not worried at all. Watching the game my first thought was, "Is there a casino in Guangzhou, China?" The way Team USA played, it had the look of late night gambling and groupies.
Playing back-to-back games was much of the reason for the poor showing against Brazil. Poor passing, lack of effort on defense, giving up second chance points all pointed to fatigue and lack of mental focus. I see a better effort coming against Lithuania this weekend. Anyway, here's some observations from the game:
The Beautiful Game: In soccer, Brazil is known for its free-flowing style of play. Many soccer fans have Brazil as their second favorite team because their game is worth rooting for. Ironically, when it comes to international basketball, Brazil makes Jeff Van Gundy's Rockets look like the the 1987 Lakers. They brought the game to a halt, grabbing, clenching and fouling on drives and flopping on the offensive end. The game ended 20 minutes longer than the China game because of the slow and sloppy play. Overall, the game sucked. There was no flow and a lot had to do with Brazil's slow and methodical play. Leandro Barbosa was the only Brazilian out there worth watching.
NBA TV Announcers: Simply the worst hoops announcers in television history. (Yes, they're even worse than the Mavericks' homers.) The first quarter was non-stop gushing over every player on the floor. I know the NBA wants to promote its players, and they own and operate NBA TV, but feel free to criticize the action just a little. I watched the last three quarters with the TV muted. I haven't done that since game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals! (NBC was gushing CONSTANTLY about Utah that game.)
Anderson Varejao 360: I don't know if it was poor defense or excellent play, but in the second half Brazil was running isolation plays for Varejao. All he did was blow past his man off the dribble and draw the fouls. This was not the spastic power forward that I'm used to. He looked like he had some game... Nah, it's probably the poor defense.
Dwight Howard?: I'm not sure if he's ready for the international game. Don't get me wrong, he'll be a beast in two years. But right now he lacks the passing and outside jumper to hang with the international bigs. Also, his low post moves aren't dominating enough to justify playing big minutes. His size is intimidating, but I'd rather have Bosh, Miller or Brand on the floor than Howard.
D-Wade and Lebron: It took LeBron 3 1/2 quarters before he had any impact. Brazil mixed in enough zone to keep LBJ from driving the lane. Still he found the spacing to drive in for a clutch 4th quarter hoop.
It's funny watching D-Wade struggle without the aid of the NBA refs. In addition to the typical traveling calls, he wasn't getting the calls when he split down the middle of the lane. At one point he pulled his "falling down to the ground" drive and looked to shoot free-throws. Sorry Dwyane, Dick Bavetta isn't here to bail you out. Instead, you see Wade picking himself up with the "awwwww mannnn!!!" face. You need to adjust to the international refs my man!
Pack it up: Bruce Bowen pulled a DNP-CD for the game. Thanks for stopping by, here's a year supply of Turtle Wax and a home edition of Team USA Basketball. I bid thee adieu!