USA 97, Angola 76: the BIG Problem no else is talking about

Observations about the USA vs. Angola game have me thinking USA has a problem with their “bigs,” or in other words, a BIG problem.

— Angola’s 3 point shooting was about as bad as Team USA’s (29%), as was their mid range game, meaning most of Angola’s 76 points came inside, which is SERIOUSLY bad news for Team USA. USA’s bigs were dismayingly deficient defensively, especially since Angola may be the only team in the Olympics that is smaller overall than the U.S.

— At half time, Angola was +3 in rebounds. By the end of the game, Angola out rebounded USA by 4 (38 to 34), so USA’s rebounding efforts against a smaller Angola team were horrible, and got worse as the game wore on. There was no correction at half time or any other place in the game.

The thing is, the rebounding situation is worse than you think.

53 percent of all Team USA’s rebounds came from their GUARDS, not their bigs!

When you consider that bigs are, well, bigger than guards, and that at any given time there are usually 50% more bigs on the floor than guards, you can see that Team USA’s bigs are definitely not pulling their weight.

Criticize Kobe’s performance all you want, (I plan to), but what hurt Team USA most this game was poor efforts and results from its forwards and centers, both on defense and in rebounding.

Rebounds per minute for FORWARDS & CENTERS:

0.286 – Carmelo Anthony
0.200 – LeBron James
0.200 – Dwight Howard
0.182 – Carlos Boozer
0.143 – Chris Bosh
0.071 – Tayshaun Prince

Rebounds per minute for GUARDS

0.313 – Dwayne Wade
0.267 – Jason Kidd
0.222 – Kobe Bryant
0.190 – Chris Paul

And of course, Angola’s rebounds per minute stats blow away all Team USA’s big players.

— There is no other way to say it, I’m disgusted the Team USA only shot 64% from the charity stripe (16 of 25). 7 of the 9 free throw misses were Team USA big men.

— Unlike the rest of the country, I’m not that worried about Team USA’s outside shooting. USA’s 3-point shooting stats are deceptive. As a team, they did shoot 5 of 21 (23.8%), but if you remove Kobe’s 0 of 8, then they shot 38.4 %. Not great, but not the end of the world either. Before his finger injury, Kobe was the most devastating perimeter player in basketball. He’s not so good now, but I don’t see him shooting 0 of 8 again. I’m thinking USA’s perimeter game will be adequate against Greece tomorrow, provided a team-first mentality prevails.

— This team has lost its focus, and many players are thinking of themselves before their team. Often a man ahead was ignored so the man with the ball could dunk or shoot. Deron Williams over dribbled. Chris Paul let his man blow by him so often I could swear the crowd started to yell, “Ole’!” Kobe, even if you were 8 out of 8 from the arc, those aren’t the stats nor the acts of a defensive stopper. Carlos, you are a role player on this team, and your role is to defend and rebound, not blow gimmies around the basket. Dwight, trash talking? Against ANGLOLA? Really?! Come on, guys, get back on task.

Scoring for the United States declined by quarter as the game went on, scoring a record low 16 points in the 4th quarter. I’m sure much of this was a motivation problem, and some of it is (hopefully) a sportsmanship thing, not wanting to run up the score and embarrass Angola. Angola’s scoring, by the way, increased.

— I LOVE how clear the floor was out of bounds at the baselines and the side lines. This should be the rule for NCAA and NBA basketball as well. I can’t STAND to see players flying into camera men or cheerleaders, or worse, not diving for loose balls so they don’t collide with these people. There is enough money in both college and professional basketball to give the players some breathing room and still make a profit.

— Team USA did manage to get the ball into post, especially to Dwight Howard, but usually they did it in early offense before Angola’s defense was set.

— I was embarrassed by Dwight Howard’s trash talking. First of all, he isn’t playing well enough to have the right. Second, even if he was, this is Angola, not the 1992 Dream Team. Get over yourself and play basketball, Dwight.

Only one player got up early and scouted the Greece vs. Spain game with the coaches: Kobe Bryant. When asked about that, LeBron James said that if Kobe was there, then the whole team was there because Kobe would share any information he obtained. My goodness that is LAME! Those guys had a chance to peek at the cards of their two greatest adversaries, and slept through it! ARGH! Can spoiled millionaires ever grasp it? TEAM comes first, you come second!

Restating what I’ve written before…

It is scary for us to pin our hopes to a team that “turns it on and off” like our current Team USA does. It would be so much more reassuring if they would just play at their full potential all the time and crush everyone, even if destroying their opponents and running up the score is seen as poor sportsmanship.

We are all hoping that as the competition gets tougher, so will they, but it’s an uneasy feeling not knowing for sure whether or not they actually will, given that USA has lost before.

One thing that will help is right now all players are getting lots of minutes, regardless their production. I’m sure the minutes will be less for players who aren’t proving themselves productive once the heat is on. That will help with the final score as well as the box score.

Also, there is one point that probably can’t be ignored.

It is just the nature of competitors to raise their level of play as the level of competition rises. It’s just who and how they are.

I remember back in the day, I lost games of horse to middle schoolers, and later that day hit 7 3-pointers in a row during a tournament.

There is just something about real competition that brings out the best in some people. Even in the NBA, some players play better against some players and some teams, the challenge just brings out the best in them. Take for example, how Gilbert Arenas plays when he plays against Kobe.

And there are a LOT of these kinds of people on TeamUSA. They need the challenge to be their best.

And TeamUSA has yet to face a team that has challenged them enough to bring out the best in them.

At least that is what I am hoping is going on!


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