Today, we continue Olympic Madness with a preview of Team USA!
The United States of America
This IS still a Thunder blog, right?
It's hard to find artistically done highlight reels for other international teams, but with Team USA, it's pretty easy. The above video is a masterpiece. Seeing Team USA do work in slow motion accentuates the majesty with which they play the game of basketball, especially when combined with operatic music. When I finished watching the video, I wasn't sure whether I just watched 2001: A Space Odyssey or basketball highlights. But I was satisfied nonetheless.
Players to Keep An Eye On: Let's face it, you already know these guys. In lieu of spitting back well-known information, I'll link you to a picture of Russell Westbrook in some ridiculous glasses.
What Others Are Saying:
"But the U.S. remains the overwhelming favorite in the 12-team field to win a third consecutive international championship, following the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. Rival contenders have suffered injuries of their own -- Spain won't have point guard Ricky Rubio and France will be without center Joakim Noah -- and no country can match the U.S. for depth or athleticism.
The Americans may lack traditional size in the pivot -- NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler is the only true center on the 12-man roster, with Kevin Love and No. 1 pick Anthony Davis behind him -- but they are nonetheless likely to control their air space. No other country possesses as many vertically aggressive stars as the U.S., which has James, Durant, point guard Russell Westbrook and others. The pick-and-roll that Greece ran possession after possession during its semifinal upset of the U.S. in the 2006 Worlds has been offset by Team USA's lineups of versatile defenders who can switch without fear. Consider this potential combination: James at center, Anthony at power forward, Durant at small forward, Kobe Bryant at shooting guard and Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Westbrook at the point -- altogether they should create endless pressure at both ends of the floor. The U.S. also has a top NBA wing defender, Andre Iguodala, coming off the bench."
"The USA team will most likely feature an unmatched defensive intensity - probably over the entire length of the court - while on offense Krzyzewski will try to get his points before the opposing teams can set their defenses. And when that does happen, the Americans will probably be a slashing team constantly attacking the rim and passing out to open shooters.
As very often with American teams, Krzyzewski must find a couple of shooters who can wait out on the wings for the driving player to dish out to them and hit those open shots.
Another issue could be health. With the abbreviated but more compact NBA schedule, some of the NBA's best could be dealing with injury knocks or tired legs - with back-to-back-to-back nights on the schedule as well as stretches of four games in five nights.
Again, also with that, Team USA is the overwhelming favorite to capture the gold medal - thanks to Krzyzewski's embarrassment of riches."
Does This Team Have a Shot at a Medal?
As I've said before, they're the odds on favourites to win the gold, and anything less than a gold would be disappointment for the team. The only thing that could stop them would be an upset, because the rest of the world still isn't at the point Team USA is. As far as teams go, the teams that have the biggest chance to upset Team USA would be Spain, Argentina, and Russia. Spain has a solid trio of big men in Gasol, Gasol, and Ibaka, and they do a good job of stretching the USA defense. Argentina is a old and experienced team centering on two borderline All-Stars in Ginobili and Scola. They could get Team USA into foul trouble, and burn them from three. Lastly, Russia is a very defensively focused team, and has the tools to keep Team USA out of the lane. France and Brazil probably have the talent to take Team USA down, but both of them have turnover problems, which makes a win against Team USA impossible. But, again, an upset would be a mighty feat against this team.
Everyone likes to talk about how David $tern wants to make Olympic teams have only three players over the games of 23 (much like Olympic soccer). But the decision still hasn't been finalized by FIFA, so I'm not holding my breath until they make an announcement. Anyway, Team USA still has a ridiculous amount of players to choose for their team, and they will always remain the world's deepest team. But as time rolls on, the game is getting introduced to more places around the world, and bigger and better challengers will arise. It's only a matter of time before China trots out a lineup consisting of 5 seven footers that can dunk from half-court. Right?
How do you think Team USA will finish? Will they win gold this year? Vote in the poll, post a comment!
Photo of Harden, Westbrook, and Durant by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.