Lessons Learned

Kurt —  September 1, 2006

Because as a nation we can often be both arrogant and impatient, sometimes it’s hard for us to admit things. Like that, playing the international game and rules, parts of the world have caught up to us in basketball. It’s hard to accept that the USA made strides toward being the best basketball team on the planet in the FIBA tournament despite the loss to Greece. Good steps were taken, but maybe we need to face up to the fact we had a long way to go and it couldn’t be done overnight.

But there is a deadline, at least in my mind, and it’s two years away. The real question is what steps do we take? How do we get there? I certainly don’t have the answers, but I’ll throw out some ideas for discussion.

1) Getting many of these guys back for next summer’ Olympic qualifying tournament. The problem was never really the USA’s offense — sure, there are some gearing weaknesses, but even in the loss to Greece the USA scored a fair amount of points. But defense takes a team. A team that has seen the pick and roll enough as a team to know their roles in stopping it. Learning defensive schemes and rotations do not happen overnight. Up until they faced Greece, team USA’s defense had gotten better over the course of the tournament. Playing together next summer makes these guys more familiar with each other and the team’s defense.

2) Outside shooting. While Team USA’s overall shooting percentage was the best in the FIBA tournament, nobody that watched them play thought their outside shooting was consistent. For the tournament they shot 36.8% from beyond the arc (not what you’d hope for a 20-foot line), and they shot just 32% against Greece and 25% against Germany the game before. I don’t have the stats from the midrange (sorry I didn’t get up at 3 to chart games) but it didn’t feel impressive either. This can be solved with personnel — Redd and Kobe are places to start, but more outside shooters are needed.

3) Movement within the halfcourt offense. If the USA could not get into transition, it looked like the USA wanted to go with the Phoenix “set the high pick and let the ball handler create” offense. Except that we don’t have anyone with the experience and savvy of Nash. And that meant guys stood out at the three-point line and let Paul/Wade/LeBron/Anthony drive, and they watched from a nice vantage point. I’m not saying run the Princeton offense, but there needs to be some movement, particularly against the zone.

4) Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream. Believe it or not, this USA team looked better than the one I remember from two years ago. It starts with a process that was better for selecting players and getting them in synch. The up-tempo, aggressive style was an improvement. They’ve got two years to build on that.