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Basketball Wed Aug 18 2010

Team USA Throttles France, Next Stop: Europe and Worlds


Tailgate editor, Brian Lauvray, was in New York City last week for the World Basketball Festival, a Nike sponsored celebration of basketball (seriously, Jay-Z performed) and round robin international friendly wrapped into one. Brian will be dropping various reports throughout the week. Here's his take on Team USA's only game on American soil.

Heading into this summer Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski were fairly sure that LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant weren't going to be available for the 2010 World Championships in Turkey this month --hey, injuries, weddings and embarrassingly ill-conceived media events take their toll. So how was the defending Olympic gold winning team going to fare against an average Team France in their first tune-up for the Worlds? Very. Well. They won by an astonishing 30 points and yet, there are still some questions headed into the tourney. Let's look:

Who Is Going To Stop The Bigs?
I'm less concerned about this point than a lot of other bloggers/pundits/writers but it still deserves some mention. Team USA has exactly one dude north of 7'0" and it's Tyson Chandler, not exactly a world-beater. Still, they have Lamar Odom who can defend anywhere from the 3-5 and certainly plays better/harder than his paygrade --that of a grossly oversized 3 or happy-go-lucky 4 depending on the Phil Jackson's whimsy. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant and his pteranodon wingspan will be suffocating the life out of any hapless opposition cursed with him as their defender. Durant, much like Odom, should be having fun handling anyone from shooting guards to power forwards to the odd, rotation-based, center on occasion.

Why am I fairly "meh" on this issue? Because, Team USA has the athleticism and, theoretically, the shooting/driving "skillz" to outscore nearly every team. Note* Spain, Greece and Brasil (yes, I know Varejao hurt his ankle) still have the fire power to match USA and the size to muscle and bully the Americans in the paint. Especially terrifying for USA backers should be the looming shadow of Spain's Marc Gasol. Pau's little brother sports a decidedly grown man post game and could make mincemeat out of Chandler, whilst getting Odom, et al into foul trouble.

Scoring. Who Is Gonna Score Points?
Again, I don't know if it's the Xanax or what, but seriously, scoring isn't going to be an issue. If Kevin Durant can maintain even a semblance of his scoring title, havoc-wreaking self from the '09-10 regular season, Team USA should be fine. The team is clearly built around Durant and if his supporting cast of wings and slashing guards can keep up, this team should score and break the physical, zone defenses coming at them. France kept the game close for the first half with some pressure defenses and a lot of miscues from Team USA, if the miscues disappear, the games will get outta hand with a quickness.

I'm never afraid to embarrass myself, so I'm aiming for the stars; this less-than-stellar roster (mind you, it's still loaded) will lose a game or two through the qualifying rounds but will come away with Team USA's first World Championship gold since 1994.

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