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Positive, Negative Articles On The National Team

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No one will know just how well Mike Krzyzewski's approach to the national
team works for a while yet, although obviously the trip to Japan will say a
lot. But the good news is that the
players and coaches seem to be buying in in a big way.
Assistants Nate
McMillan and Mike D'Antoni are both excited and impressed, and Bruce Bowen and
LeBron James, among others, are both rarin' to go.

But a lot of people don't get his approach, not completely. For
instance, Percy Allen of the Seattle Times, is
wringing his hands
over Coach K's suggestion that the U.S. should try to
dominate every quarter, arguing that:

"Krzyzewski knows tournament basketball better than anyone on the
planet. In 25 years at Duke, he has won three national titles and his 66
NCAA tournament victories is first on the all-time list.

"Anyone with that type of track record should know that you don't
dominate tournaments. You survive them.

"You win games any way you can and move on. You build momentum in
the early rounds. You try not to peak too early. Nobody wants to play their
best game in the opener, then come up short in the championship game.

"Dominate every quarter?

"That's a fool's gambit."

Well, yes and no. Of course he's correct in saying you have to survive
and advance. But what he doesn't get, and what a lot of people seem to
miss, is that while yes, Krzyzewski is suggesting that the U.S. try to be
dominant, his teams didn't get to be dominant by planning to survive.

We can pretty much guarantee you that in practice every day, both sides of a
scrimmage are urged to dominate the other, and that going into a tournament, a
Duke team is worked over psychologically with the idea that they will try
to, yes, dominate (rather than survive) their opponents.

What K's suggestion is about is mental toughness and the pursuit of
excellence, rather than ugly Americanism or a desire to relive the Dream Team.

The Dream Team has immense talent, of course, with Michael Jordan, Magic
Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl
Malone, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton and Christian
Laettner, but when people look back, they usually see offensive fireworks -
Jordan and Barkley's scoring, Johnson's passing, Mullins' amazing
shooting. But what they usually fail to see are two key elements: 1)
the immense will each player on that team had, and 2) the incredible defense
which was available every night.

Michael Jordan came to personify willpower and competitive nature. But
when you consider the other guys, it's also impressive - Bird and Johnson,
naturally, but also Barkley, Pippen, Malone, and Stockton, all of whom were nobodies,
frankly, and who made themselves into great players. Like Bird, they came
out of largely rural backgrounds and obsessed their way into greatness.
Barkley is a guy who came from Leeds, Alabama, and lacking sophisticated
training options, jumped over a fence as often as he could, every day.

You try it.

When you wedded their willpower to a high level of defense, no one was
beating this team. As great as Jordan was, and as great as his reputation
for clutch play was, he was a phenomenal defender. So was Pippen and so
was Stockton. Get by them and you had Robinson to contend with. Miss
the shot and Barkley and Malone were there to get the boards.

This team doesn't have the same level of greatness. But what they do
have is athleticism and versatility. Brad Miller is the only big man, as
in classic center, but Brand and Stoudemire play far bigger than their height
would suggest.

More importantly, if this team plays defense like Krzyzewski demands, it's
going to be fun to watch: seeing guys this athletic really getting after
their opponents is going to look like, to use a K-ism, a car out of

But it starts with intensity, and with analzying your opponents

As everyone keeps saying, this is is not 1992. But what it is is a
young group of supremely talented players who seem to be responding to what is
(for most of them) a novel approach.

As always, the U.S. will be the most talented team. But that doesn't
mean much anymore. However, if they come out and deny the three point
approach and disrupt opponents defensively as we think they might, the formula

For one thing, opponents legs will weary as the games go on and fresh
Americans rotate in. And, as we have seen in Duke games, when teams buckle
against extraordinary defensive pressure, big offensive runs can result.

There are no guarantees, but between the team's athleticism, the expected
level of defense, and Krzyzewski's attention to detail, the team has a shot at
being really good.