So here's the most important observation I have about the Olympic game – and it may be the reason why our team seems to really struggle in the half court:
When you watch the other teams, who are experienced with international ball, they initiate their offensive sets about six to eight feet back from the three point line. Their wing shooters hover a good three to four feet back from the line.
The US, however, like good NBA players, initiate their offense at – or a few feet behind – the three point line. Their wings toe it. This is especially the case with slash-minded players like Anthony, Wade, James, and Bryant.
In the NBA, this is fine – the wider arc of the 3-point line adds another 6 feet to the space within it, giving penetrators more room to operate, and generating greater spacing. But the international arc is so much shorter, when a player penetrates, the help defense has three or four fewer feet to cover to collapse on them. Watching the games – at times it does seem amazing how quickly the defenses will jam penetration and attack post players.
When Redd is on the floor – he actually sits where the normal three-point line is – and that does help the spacing and our half court offense. Deron Willams and Paul are also adept at making their moves well outside the three-point line – probably because as Point Guards, they are a little more used to making moves further out, using as much floor as they can to create space on their defender.
Hopefully, they'll figure that out. It would help Howard greatly.
Other observations, and I will warn you – the undisciplined nature of the US Olympic team actually makes me kinda grumpy to watch. Weird.
- This team ballhawks too damn much. All of em. A team can support one ballhawk. Maybe two. But when all of the guys are chasing the ball, there are too many open shots. I still don't think we're going to lose, but some disciplined team is going to make us pay and keep it close.
- That team will be Spain. One of the most missed stories of the season was the fact that there were two point guards playing significant minutes who were putting up insane assist to turnover ratios. Those two players were Chris Paul and Jose Calderon. Calderon and Navarro are not going to wilt under US ballhandling pressure. Calderon, in fact, makes fewer mistakes than Paul does with the ball. If the US continues to rely on forced turnovers, it's going to be Jose and Spain that makes them sweat (not to mention the rest of the team is solid).
- Oh Wow! Lots of people are shocked that Dwayne Wade is great when healthy! Really? Were the 2006 Finals really that long ago?
- Chris Paul and Deron Williams are leading the team in minutes. I don't know how to take that. Is Coach K recognizing they are both way better than Jason Kidd – or is he just trying to figure out which one will be the primary backup when the real games start?
- Jason Kidd was terrible in the first two games, solid against Lithuania. I'll stop talking about Kidd now . . .
- . . . and talk about Carmelo Anthony. I understand that Carmelo is a special scorer. He's got nice range, solid face-up Post game, but let's get one thing straight. The announcers keep saying he's the best international player the US has – and that he causes so many mismatches at the Power Forward Position, blah, blah, blah. Look, the US team's biggest weakness is it's undersized and can't control the boards. It's kinda sad seeing how easily Lithuania and Turkey overpowered us for a lot of those boards. Carmelo can score – but if he can't rebound(and he doesn't), he's not the best the US can offer at the PF position. In fact, he's a bit of a detriment.
And since this is a Hornets site:
Chris Paul has averaged the most minutes on the team. In my opinion the offense runs much, much smoother when he is on the floor bringing up the ball, though part of that is because Deron Williams is also usually on the floor. Those two guys play off each other very, very well.
Paul's been deadly on the drive, as usual, but he rarely goes to the hoop, instead preferring to feed other players. Sometimes he tries a little too hard to feed them the ball – and he's tried to run pick and rolls with Bosh but clearly doesn't have the same chemistry with Bosh that he and West have. He did get a nice dunk against Lithuania that got the entire bench up and shouting for him. I guess people are still surprised he can get up that high.
Paul's three point shot has been spotty – as usual. His defense has been pesky enough that he's drawn a couple charges because the other team's players were pushing him to get him to back off.
Oh – the much repeated claim that Paul can't handle International ball because international gaurds are too strong for him? Haven't seen it yet. He's pretty much able to do what he always does.
[UPDATE] ESPN is now reporting that Chris Paul took over in the starting line up for Kidd against Russia. Interesting – but hardly surprising.