Al Davis would have loved Team USA.
Because speed kills.
Team USA basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski coded it with words like “athleticism” and “versatility” — and those are accurate, too — but the makeup of Team USA is both lightning quick but with length. This is a team that that can run the floor, make quick cuts in the half court offense and, most importantly, smother you defensively for 94 feet.
This is not a roster that is going to run you over, they’re just going to run right by you. (Well… Blake Griffin will do both.)
This is a roster that is the favorite to win gold. One that will try to do that with speed and defense; with overwhelming athleticism, not with size and brute strength.
This is a team that is going to be a lot of fun to watch. They will win and be entertaining.
Look at the final roster: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, James Harden and Andre Iguodala. You can do a lot of things with that roster and Coach K plans to.
“Almost everybody on the team can play multiple positions…” Krzyzewski said. “You could have a lineup in there where LeBron James is the point guard with Kobe and Westbrook and Carmelo and Durant. Whatever you think about could happen because of its versatility and athleticism.”
The rash of injuries Team USA saw in the run-up to these games — Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade) — impacted the roster, but this kind of design was probably the goal from the start.
It’s easy to see Love at center grabbing the rebound and whipping an outlet pass to Westbrook who takes a lob and throws the ally-oop to Griffin… and pity the poor Tunisian player who decides to block that shot. It’s a roster that can keep pressure on you for a full 40 minutes.
Pressure defense will be the calling card of the team, Krzyzewski said. They are taking it to heart, reportedly in practice the senior circuit is already harassing the USA Select Team players from the second the ball is inbounded. A lot of international teams can’t handle that kind of pressure and the resulting turnovers will lead to Team USA highlights.
The one concern for Team USA is size — Chandler is the only true center and the only 7-footer. He will be a defensive anchor inside. But when Team USA runs into Spain with both Marc and Pau Gasol starting then Serge Ibaka coming off the bench, will Kevin Love at the five and LeBron at the four be enough?
That’s where the pressure defense comes in — it’s hard for a smaller point guard to make a clean pass in the post when Andre Iguodala or Kobe Bryant are in their face. You can take Spain or any team out of it’s game by making it hard to get the ball to the players they want where they want, and that’s what the speed and athleticism of Team USA can do. It is disruptive.
Gold is not a lock, but some team is going to have to take it away from Team USA. And it is going to have to catch them to do it.
• One other note, if you want to know what numbers players will wear here you go, via Ben Goliver of CBSSports.com.:
Paul 13, Westbrook 7, Williams 8, Harden 12, Iguodala 9, Bryant 10, Anthony 15, Griffin 14, Chandler 4, Love 11, Durant 5, James 6.