Posted by briesen on 24th July 2012
On June, 11–a day before Team USA’s first exhibition game against the Dominican Republic–Kobe Bryant claimed that his currently constructed team could take down the original 1992 Dream Team. Two weeks later this claim has changed from laughable to absurd.
While Team USA still remains the heavy favorite, there is also no way to deny that there are weaknesses. There is really only one true center on the team, Tyson Chandler, and he is offensively challenged to say the least. Because of this offensive ineptness, Chandler has only averaged 14 minutes through the first four games. Team USA’s strategy seems to be to go small with Kevin Durant, Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony handling the big man duties. While this has helped Team USA’s offense, their rebounding has suffered. Through four games Team USA has grabbed 161 rebounds, their opponents have grabbed 160. They’ve been out rebounded by both Great Britain and Brazil and were only +3 in rebounds in a six point win over the 3rd ranked team in the world, Argentina.
However, what makes Team USA the heavy favorites is the fact that they win nearly every other category. By going small, everyone on the court can both handle and pressure the ball. They’ve averaged just 11 turnovers per game while forcing 22.
Later today, Team USA faces their toughest challenge when they play Spain, the 2nd ranked team in the world. Spain can put more quality big men on the court then any team including Team USA. Their front line is anchored by Pau and Marc Gasol, both of whom are better then any big man on Team USA. They have NBA leading shot blocker Serge Ibaka coming off the bench. For Team USA to win, they’ll have to find a way to minimize Spain’s low-post advantage which likely means more minutes for Chandler. Whether they can win this way is yet to be seen.
Team USA needs to stop worrying about being better then a team that played 20 years ago and start worrying about how they can beat the team they’re playing later today.
Tags: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, NBA, Team USA
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Posted by briesen on 19th June 2012
I got into a debate with a friend the other day. It was on a subject I and everyone else has debated about too much: is Lebron James a clutch NBA player? The media and fans seem to think not. While it may look like it, the question can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. The perception of Lebron changes almost everyday depending on what happened in his last game. This isn’t what makes it difficult though. The problem is clutch has no standard definition when it comes to basketball. Is it putting up great stats in a big game? Is it hitting a last second shot? Is it not charging into the stands when a fan throws a beer at you? Is it avoiding a TV special to announce where you will take your talents? Is it not bringing guns into the locker room? Maybe it’s all these things, maybe it’s none of them.
The media seems to want to define it as hitting shots at the end of a close game. So when Lebron dropped 45 points and 15 rebounds on the Celtics in a must win Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, that wasn’t so much clutch as it was a great performance in a big game. Since everything in the NBA is defined by stats, clutch has to be held to the same standard.
For the sake of this argument lets define clutch as shots taken with under 5 seconds to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter or overtime. Let’s apply that only to star players starting in the 2000-01 season through February of the 2011-12 season. Using that formula, Kobe Bryant has hit more shots then anyone going 9-19. Carmelo Anthony is second at 6-15. Lebron James on the other hand, is 0-11. For these players, perception seems to fit perfectly with reality, but that is not always the case.
Kevin Durant is the three time scoring champion, but is just 3-23 in “clutch” situations. Sure, he’s made 3 more then Lebron, but he’s also taken 12 more. On the other hand, Rudy Gay is 4-7, better then guys like Dirk Nowitzki (4-12), Dwayne Wade (4-13) and Paul Pierce (2-9). Gay has never had the reputation as a clutch player, but according to stats he is. The bottom line is that “clutch” isn’t something based on numbers or reality. It’s based on perception and that will likely never change. Just know that reality and perception don’t always match up.
Tags: Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, NBA
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