Friday, August 04, 2006

Dream a Little Dream

USA basketball has put together the latest "Dream Team" to try and regain the US supremacy in world basketball. After the last team only came home with the Bronze at the Athens Olympics, the call went out to change the process by which the teams were picked. This time around they have asked the players to make a two year commitment to the team and they selected role players as well as scorers to try and make the team more well rounded.

The team is filled with young, enthusiastic players. That should make the difference from previous teams. The US is no longer under the delusion that it can just put a team of all stars together and have them practice for two weeks and then go out and dominate every game. Since the original "Dream Team" the rest of the world has made great strides. The "Dream Team" concept came about when the college players won only a bronze in the previous Olympics. The US decided to show the world that they were still the dominant basketball power. When Larry Bird, Michael Jordon, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkely, Patrick Ewing and the rest of the squad showed up at the Atlanta games, teams were just happy to be on the court with such great players. Every game was a blowout and the US players put on a basketball clinic. After Atlanta the US continued to dominate, but the games got closer and closer with every international competition, culminating in a 3rd place finish at the last Olympics. The teams were no longer just happy to be on the court with the US players, they wanted to beat them. A 19 point loss to Puerto Rico in the opening game of the Athens games was a clear signal that the rest of the world was no longer there just there to be whipping boys for the US.

The current US team started their exhibition schedule last night by manhandling Puerto Rico and beating them by more than 40 points. The Athens team also started out their exhibition schedule by destroying Puerto Rico, the same Puerto Rican team that they would lose to once the Olympics got under way. Therefore, it's not a foregone conclusion that this team will be able to just plow through their competition. The fact that the NBA has so many foreign players is just a testament to the growth of international basketball. David Stern's dream of making basketball and international game has grown to fruition. The cost of that dream has been the dwindling of US dominance.

The current team should get better with the addition of Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and a healthy Amare Stoudemire. They are the best collection of players on the planet. It still remains to be seen whether they can continue to play like a team or whether it becomes a collection of individual stars trying to prove that they are better than everyone else. It'll will be an interesting show for the next couple of years. Hopefully coack K can keep everyone focused on the goal, which is to win a Gold medal. It sounds easier than it will prove to be. These guys didn't get to where they are by taking a back seat in favor of someone else. They all have gigantic egos and that is going to be the main stumbling block to the US regaining it's place at the top of the world basketball pyramid.



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