Speaking to Two-time NBA All Star David West of the San Antonio Spurs, one cannot miss out on the Power Forward’s deep knowledge in varied aspects of society. Through a lengthy interview he granted, many issues regarding his shock move from Indiana Pacers to San Antonio sacrificing $11 million in the process, how the Spurs lost multiple home games despite losing just one in the regular season to defending champions Golden State Warriors and his mission in Ghana were deliberated. However, one area the big man-literally and figuratively- didn’t sound too straightforward had to do with America’s Olympic Basketball Team.
Following the withdrawal of several key players from the team through injury and personal reasons including Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis, Team USA has been hit by a lack of star power. Though West was confident his nation would win gold in Rio, it didn’t come with the same conviction that say,a Minnesota Timberwolves playoff drought will end in two years, would have. “The talent pool is very rich now so if key guys aren’t there, I still think there is enough left to get it done. Yeah I think so (they can win). Depending on the type of roster they put together… I think they have a chance” he said via Basketballghana.com.
Usually, for a team that has missed out on the gold medal just once since 1992 when professional players from the NBA were chosen as representatives, confidence was always sky high and was almost a done deal for the team before bouncing the ball on the Olympic court. The talent pool the US has to dip into is still deep as Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson’s talents are peerless on the international stage and let’s not forget LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony might commit later on to join the team which makes the possibility of having two of the last winners of the best player award in the world’s best basketball league for the last four years, puts America right at the top.
There is one tiny detail insiders are weary about the new look USA Basketball Team . The last time America failed to win an Olympic gold medal, a similar situation preceded preparations for the Olympics. In 2004, the US lost out to Argentina for the top prize only claiming bronze behind Italy’s silver medal. That particular performance retired the tag “Dream Team” from subsequent national representatives who won gold after the Athens Games. The 2008 Gold winning side which featured the likes of Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Jason Kidd, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer aside Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James was tagged the “Redeem Team” .
Before 2004, a myriad of absentees rocked the American camp. Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal and Ben Wallace-who had just won Defensive Player of the Year award for a third time- withdrew because they were tired, Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter and Ray Allen got married and Jason Kidd, Karl Malone and Elton Brand dealt with injuries at the time. After the September 11 attacks in the US in 2003, security also became an issue of concern to some players who didn’t want to risk their lives. As such, Mike Bibby and arguably the second biggest star in the league then, Tracy McGrady, decline invitations to join the team. Plus there was the ignominy of Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault hearing which almost derailed his career-well at least the financial side of it.
In essence, the 12 man unit Larry Brown built was devoid of pass-first point guards and deep shooters. In Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury there existed two shoot-first selfish players who would devour their teams’ chances of winning just to pad individual statistics. Though Carmelo Anthony has been an elite sniper for as long as even he can remember, he was fresh off his first year at the pro level and was too green to deal with the twists and demands of international basketball. The international game differs from the NBA in many ways ranging between shorter three point lines and “travel” rules. Puerto Rico rang the bells by beating USA 92-73 in the opening game setting the tone for an abysmal showing on the biggest stage of all.
Back in January, a 30 man list was named to be later streamlined to just 12 players for the Olympics. Nine players have since been removed from the list, two are still undecided, and Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan are likely to withdraw their names. The former pair dealt with injuries through the season and will be wise to apportion time for recuperation whilst the latter is one of the top free agents on the market and would wisely want to avoid getting injured especially following Paul George’s gruesome leg injury in camp two years ago.
The world’s greatest stage is set to miss out on a boat load of stars later this year but the repercussions on the greatest basketball nation of losing such stars might be on the horizon.