Kevin Love has been under fire the past two weeks. He struggled in exhibition play, and his role on Team USA was questioned. He was supposed to be the other big to help Team USA with a roster that has almost no size. There was talk of him slipping out of the rotation almost entirely. But against France with a more rugged but overall shorter lineup and in need of someone to put the ball in the basket, Love stepped up, stepped out, and burned the doghouse down.
Love finished with 14 points in 14:18 of play, and helped Team USA to a 98-71 win over France Sunday. Love was tipping in shots, nailing jumpers, and cutting to the basket. He seemed much more at ease than in previous games with Team USA and he really helped jump-start the offense in the third quarter after Team USA only lead by single digits at the half. Love finished with seven points in the third and Team USA broke the game open, and never looked back.
It’s a sign of Team USA’s depth. When some of their players don’t play as well, like Carmelo Anthony who had a rough game Sunday, they have guys to step up. Chris Paul had arguably been the weakest of the guards in exhibition play, and he was electric, while Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook struggled. James Harden made plays. There always seems to be someone ready to step up and make the plays necessary. This team may not have the depth of the Dream Team, but it’s impossible to say that they’re not an incredible collection of players with an answer to a million questions that can be asked of them.
And it’s a testament to Coach K’s flexibility that he not only put Love on the floor with the game still within reach, but put him in a position to put his struggles on this team behind him. With every game, Team USA seems to get more confident not only in each other, but with their own roles on this team. And with France one of the tougher teams they’ll face in group play, it was just the kind of start Team USA needed: an early struggle, responded to with depth, versatility, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and a total effort to put away the French and leave the game beyond any doubt.
Even in a game where they didn’t play their best, Team USA looks ready.
“They’re a lot smaller than we were,’’ Ewing, one of 11 Hall of Famers on that Dream Team, said on NBA TV. “(The current team is) kind of light in the middle. Myself and David Robinson, we would have had a field day… I’m not saying we would have creamed them. Best out of 10, I’d say we’d have beaten them 10 out of 10.’’
via Chris Tomasson’s post on London Olympics | Latest updates on Sulia.
That’s Patrick Ewing weighing in on the raging debate about Team USA 2012 vs. the Dream Team to Fox Sports’ Chris Tommasson.
And it’s kind of the sentiment of everyone who’s not on Team USA 2012. Yeah, some of those games might be close, but the Dream Team didn’t have the injuries, Dream Team didn’t have the size problems, Dream Team had better shooters, Dream Team had two of the five best players of all time.
So they wouldn’t cream them, they’d just win every game.
I’m sure that will make the guys on today’s team feel better.
The Knicks had dreams of Steve Nash this summer before the Lakers swooped in and took over to land Nash in their sign-and-trade. Nash eventually made his decision based on the proximity to his kids, so there may have been nothing for the Knicks to do. But you have to imagine that having Mike D’Antoni still roaming their sideline would have helped. In London for the Olympics as an assistant for Team USA, D’Antoni told reporters that he would have “walked to Phoenix” to get Nash on board in New York.
But of course, that was never going to happen. The CAA Knicks starring Carmelo Anthony were never going to appear otherwise, and D’Antoni didn’t fit into that plan. If Jeremy Lin was a threat to Anthony’s stardom (and there’s no indication that Anthony himself had a problem with sharing the spotlight if it meant winning), how was that going to work with the two-time MVP in the building?
Even more so, though, the Knicks have headed in a different direction. They’re a slower, defensive team now, built around Mike Woodson’s defensive scheme and Tyson Chandler’s at-rim protection. The Nash-Amar’e connection was great six years, ago, even three years ago. But they would have been trying to head in two different directions, towards a defensive mindset and an offensive approach. Too difficult to try and go both places at once.
So maybe it’s for the best. But you can tell where D’Antoni’s mind was headed. A Nash-J.R. Smith-Melo-Amar’e Stoudemire-Chandler team might have been able to balance both sides. We’ll never know. D’Antoni’s gone and this is Melo’s team through and through now.