The 2006 version of Team USA won it's first game of the World Championships by beating Puerto Rico 111-100. That's about the nicest thing I'm going to say about it, but I wanted to get that out of the way early. My overall impression is that Coach K needs to stop treating this thing like it's little league where everyone has to play a certain amount of minutes. Antawn Jamison starts over Dwayne Wade? Um...ok. He was making substitutions at what seemed like every dead ball in the first half, Puerto Rico took advantage of the lack of rhythm on Team USA's part and controlled the entire first half. Luckily, Coach K woke up and got his real team on the floor for the second half and they cruised. They never were threatened all that much in the second half, but they are going to have to play their best players together for heavy minutes if they're going to beat good teams next week.
The US team is also going to have to think about altering it's offensive strategy. Carmelo Anthony might rival Dirk and Manu as the best players in the world at this type of game. He had 21 last night and was the difference maker out there. The offense needs to run through him, as it is right now, they don't really have much of a half court offense. All of their big runs are generated by steals and transition baskets. They still struggle with outside shooting at times, the first half was a brick fest last night. However there are signs of life, Heinrich and Paul are both very solid point guards, I'm fine with either one out there. Heinrich had 15 points and when they actually swung the ball against the zone he'd bury a 3. Paul had 11 points, 9 assists, and 5 steals. Labron and Wade were good, but I'm starting to wonder if the international game is going to be tough on them. Joe Johnson also needs to play a little more when they're going zone, he hit some dagger 3's last night and i don't see why they can't park him in the corner and have him gun against those 2-3 and matchup zones.
Defensively, I haven't made up my mind yet about this. I like the pressure man to man because they clearly need those big transition runs to be a powerhouse team. The problem will be that when they play teams like Argentina or Spain they're going to get back picked and back doored to death. Seeing Duke play about 1,000 times over the years, it seems unlikely that they will ever go to any kind of zone, but I don't know how anyone would score against one with those players out there. The Bruce Bowen cut could be the death of this team, not enough has been made of this, but it would have been nice to have him on Arroyo when he was going off last night. Battier's a nice player, but they need a lock down stopper, they had one and they cut him.
One final note, the refs are high, high comedy. They call random technical fouls on nobody, they'll blow the whistle and then huddle together and then go with "foul on the USA, 2 shots" and everyone will kind of look around like "who was it on?" only to get no response, it's just a monstrosity out there.
Reading ESPN it seems as if everyone is giving them a grade. Well, I'd give them a C. I'll have a review of the game against China coming up tomorrow, but that game is on at 3:30 in the AM so it would either be the drunkest review of a game ever, or I'll catch it on tivo tomorrow morning. Until then, USA USA USA!!!