Team USA will play to its strengths

LAS VEGAS — In their continual quest to keep up with American talent, the serious basketball countries in the world have relied on fundamentals, intelligence and, well, Yankee stupidity.

The U.S. has always had better basketball players and more of them than any other country. Sometimes, however, talent doesn’t translate to gold. International teams have proven that experienced teams playing with skilled unselfish players can cause problems for the U.S.

The 2012 U.S. Olympic team is aware of history – losses in the 1972, 1988 and 2004 Olympics that they’ve seen film of and/or participated in.

The players will go to London with a bit of an attitude and a determination to prove they are not only the best in the world, but also that the U.S. plays superior basketball.

And they will not make the mistake made by past unsuccessful teams, most notably those in 1972 and 1988. They will not rely on the set offenses and deliberate styles employed by the respective head coaches of those two teams, Hank Iba and John Thompson.

The 1972 loss was no doubt tainted by the controversy at the end of the gold medal game that gave the Soviets two additional chances to win the game. But the fact is the Soviet Union was in position to win, and the game probably should not have been that close.

The differences in talent were less in 1988 because international teams had players in their mid to late 20s and even in their early 30s playing against U.S. collegians. The approach of a halfcourt offense and pressure defense simply did not work against an experienced, veteran Soviet team. That victory was not tarnished.

“Style of play is important,” Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “That ’72 team did not take advantage of the athleticism it had. The ’88 team didn’t have enough shooters.”

If there is one possible deficiency in the makeup of the current team, it was the presence of only one true center – 7-1 Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks.

(The original column can be viewed here on

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