Team USA is a lot of fun to watch if you truly love the game of basketball.
They are aggressive on defense, they pressure and gamble. They want to run. They have spectacular athletes. They can turn the finesse of international basketball into a day at Rucker Park with dunks and showmanship. Did you see his second-half crossover from the wing, blow by the guy and dunk. That was schoolyard. That was fun.
But the USA’s 106-78 crushing of Croatia shows why it’s just hard to get behind this team at the World Championships.
In a fantastic post at Hardwood Paroxysm our own Rob Mahoney wonders why everyone loves Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder and yet doesn’t care or mocks Kevin Durant and Team USA this summer. He gets into the idea of ownership and passion, and that is a lot of it.
But so is the fact that in this tournament, Team USA will rarely be tested. And it’s hard to be excited about a team that can cruise to victory.
USA Basketball toyed with Croatia, going on a 50-15 run over the second and third quarters. Croatia was a team where the casual basketball fan couldn’t name a player, not one guy in the NBA and a star player who even us basketball junkies went, “oh, I’ve heard of him.”
Slovenia on Sunday has a few guys we know (Goran Dragic, Primoz Brezec and Bostjan Nachbar) and the same with Brazil on Monday (Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao). But those two games will end with scores a lot like this one. Then comes Iran and Tunisia, and they are about as good at basketball as you think.
We Americans love scrappy underdogs, but this team is really only a borderline underdog to one team in the world, Spain. That semifinal will be a real contest. Argentina, Turkey and Greece have a puncher’s chance against us in a one-game elimination setting. After that, we win easy.
So no doubt this is a fun team. But it’s hard to get excited about an underdog team that is barely an underdog.
Still, they are a lot of fun to watch. In the playground sense, with Kevin Love’s outlets and Durant doing whatever Durant wants to. We just want to see a test.