Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
While most of you sleep off your Friday night happy hour, Team USA will hit the court one more time in China to play in the absolute worst game international competition has to offer.
At 4 AM Saturday morning, the mighty United States Men’s National Basketball Team will face Poland needing to win to avoid finishing last in the FIBA World Cup.
It’s an embarrassingly absurd task for a team full of quality NBA players.
Y’know, in a lot of ways, the loss to France was a bigger disappointment than the Celtics’ sorry performance in the 2018/19 season.
The Celtics were going up against other talented teams in the Eastern Conference last season. This tournament? You had a dozen NBA players up against teams that had only a handful of representatives from the world’s premier league.
While I think you can pin a fair bit of Team USA’s disappointing performance on Gregg Popovich basically phoning it in, the bottom line is that the game was lost by the players on the court, not by the coach.
(But, while we’re talking about Pop, the pic up there? That’s the header pic for Team USA basketball, and that look on his face pretty much sums up the whole Team USA experience once the ‘survive and advance’ part of the tournament kicked in).
And the way the game was lost was, as John points out later in his article, disturbingly similar to the way the Celtics lost a lot of games last season. A demonstrably superior team played with no cohesion or coordination when their opponents turned up the heat.
The similarities are striking. A deep team full of relatively similar talent was expected to contend for a championship, though there were other teams that had better individual stars that stood in the way. Each relied on a stud point guard that couldn’t falter without it significantly hurting the team’s chances of winning. When push came to shove, each team abandoned things that worked to go on individual forays that ultimately cost them.
Basketball can get complicated with its schemes and rotations, but there are some simple truths to this game. Players do not thrive without structure and well-defined roles. Team USA’s chemistry was far better than Boston’s, but without an absolute, clear-cut, “this is the best player and everyone knows it” kind of player, they were always vulnerable.
I have to disagree with John here. The way I see it, once you’ve identified the problem: “each team abandoned things that worked to go on individual forays that ultimately cost them”, then your diagnosis should at least explain the problem.
I don’t think “there was no clear-cut best player” leads, of a necessity, to ‘abandoning things that worked.’
But you know what does?
I had hopes that this tournament would provide an opportunity for the three Celtic veterans involved to earn a measure of maturity by facing tests that would have a bit more at stake than the NBA’s regular season, but at the same time, against a lesser caliber of competition.
I don’t think we’re looking at a situation where this team needs to be blown up, etc., and I don’t think we’re looking at a situation where these guys aren’t going to get where they need to go.
But I can tell you for a fact, they ain’t there yet.
It comes down to the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
Knowledge is knowing that tomatoes are a fruit. Wisdom is knowing you should leave them out of a fruit salad.
In a vacuum these guys know how they need to play to win. But when the chips are down, they don’t play the way they know they should play. And, honestly, that’s something that they’ve got to figure out themselves–nobody can figure it out for them.