Are we the only ones who think the Olympic basketball team is capable of
slipping up? Are they talented? Of course. In many respects, it's a
superb team. A slam dunk to win it all? Not so fast.
First of all, as the Aussies showed, the awe factor is just about gone.
The other countries aren't scared of the NBA players like they used to be. The
first time it was like comic book heroes. Aside from that, Magic and
Jordan were not about to lose.
On the current team, though, there's not a single guy who has won a
championship after high school. Abdur-Raheem? No. Ray Allen? No. Vin Baker? No.
Vince Carter? He did at least make the Final Four, but again, no. Kevin
Garnett? Maybe someday, but no. Tim Hardaway? No. Jason Kidd? McDyess?
No. Gary Payton? No. Steve Smith? No
And while the talent gap remains a considerable gap indeed, the Aussies
managed to stay in the game for a bit by playing very smart
basketball. The old problem has re-emerged: we send an
All-Star team to play teams which have been together for a very long time.
There's no way to counter that, really.
Aside from all that, who is the leader on this team? Mourning and
Payton are the tough guys, but Mourning doesn't have a good record under
pressure. If a game gets unexpectedly close, who do you turn to?
The good news is that there are at least 7 good defenders, but this team has
some significant weaknesses. It's relevant - it might not matter in the first
round at all. But in the medal round, you have to pay attention, because
the Aussies, the Lithuanians, the Russians, and whichever former Yugo states
make it, they're all sound.