Tuesday, May 1, 2007

International Basketball – Part 2 – The Greatness of the Original Dream Team and the not so great recent Dream Teams

In the 1988 the USSR basketball team, lead by Arvydas Sabonis, beat the US team in the Olympics final, this would mark as the last time that the US send out their best college players to play in the Olympics. Due to the lack of success in the Olympics, United States began to use players from the NBA to represent the country in 1992, also known as the dream team. The first few Dream Teams had great success and winning with a dominant fashion. The recent Dream Teams however are not so great and were not able to come out with the gold in recent Olympics and World Championship play.

Why are the recent Dream Teams losing?
There are several reasons why the recent Dream Teams are losing in the world stage. With the lack of commitment of the players being the most important factor, which trigger a domino effect that lead to the other factors such as lack of team chemistry and the players are more focus on individual play instead of playing as a team. Another factor is the lack of focus or being overconfident.

Lack of commitment
There are many reasons, the players want to rest over the summer, let lingering injuries heal or do not want to risk injury. But the bottom line is although the US still has the most elite players in the world, not all of them want to play on the Dream Team every year. This lead to a change in team roster virtually every year and many times, the team is mostly made up of second tier players. Also due to the change is in roster every year, the players are not familiar with each other’s and the coach’s playing style and cause a lack of chemistry. When playing the game the players do not know their teammates tendency, where the teammates would go and how they would react in different events of the game, thus force a shot up instead of making the extra pass, because they do not want to force the issue and end up turning the ball over. Whereas the international teams, their players really take pride in representing their county and commit to the team. Another thing is that the other countries do not have as many elite players so the top group could join or at least practice with the national team at a young age and learn how to play with each other.

Lack of Focus and being Overconfident
The Dream Team is always label as the team to beat and gets the most attention out of all the teams that are involve in the tournament, and it is just easy for the players to lose their focus, thinking that they are the best, they will just roll by and get the gold medal. Because the Dream Team usually are so confident about themselves, they don’t play hard from the beginning of each game, if the game is close, they always felt that they can tighten things up in the final minutes of the game and win the game. Unlike the original Dream Team, which compose with the most stars and the best of all Dream Teams in my opinion, they are very competitive, they know that they are the best and wan to show that they are the best, a win would not do it for them, every win need to be a blow out and just had an absolutely amazing performance in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The Dream Teams – the results of each tournament for Dream Team I – VII (1 – 7)
In 1992, the original Dream Team were formed, this team included 10 of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, selected in 1996. The dream team dominated the tournament and had trailed only once in the whole tournament, happened early in the gold medal game. This team cruise by their opponents and easily won the 1992 Barcelona Olympic gold medal. Even though they won every game by blowing out the other team, none of the players take a single second off, they play tough defense every procession. This is simply the best basketball team that had ever been put together, and I doubt that we could ever match the talent, skills, intensity and competitiveness of that team ever again.

Since then the US had continue to send out top NBA stars to represent the country in 1994 World Championship in Toronto and 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, winning both events easily. But each time the team was consisted with a different group of players.

In 1998, due to the labour dispute in the NBA, no current NBA player were used in the 1998 Athens World Championship, and the US team finished 3rd in the tournament.

In 2000, there are now more players from around the world joined the NBA, this Dream Team face more pressure to proved that the US team is the best, although they won the gold medal in the Sydney Olympics but this dream team do not dominate their opponent like the previous teams do, including three games in which the margin of victory is 10 points or less.

In 2002, many of the top NBA players decline to participate in the Indianapolis World Championship, because many felt that they had a long season in the NBA and require some rest, as well as not to risk a major injury that could damage their season’s play. With mainly second tier players, this Dream Team finished 6th at home in Indianapolis, losing the final 5 games of the tournament. This marks the first time that the US had failed to capture the gold medal, or simply loss a game, with NBA players’ participation.

The US team was seemingly back on track in 2003, after they finished easily in first place in the Tournament of Americas to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics. However, in 2004, 10 of the 12 players on the 2003 team decided not to participate in the Olympics and force USA Basketball to scramble for players and form the Dream Team VI filled with young and un-established stars. At times this team was labeled as the “Nightmare Team” instead of the Dream Team, and once again, they fail to win gold, finishing 3rd after losing to Argentina in the semi-finals.

Due to the lack of success of the Dream Team, USA Basketball felt that their failure is due to changes in players of each team, this causes a lack of chemistry in the team and players showed that they were not comfortable to play with each other and essentially caused players to play a more individual style of basketball instead of team basketball. After pinpointing out this issue, to correct it, players were asked for a three-year commitment, which include the 2006 Worlds and the 2008 Summer Olympics.

In 2006, this new group appeared to have new attitude and played great at the beginning, averaged a margin of victory of 25 points going into the semi-finals in Japan. However, they fall to the hands of the European Championship winner, Greece in the semi-finals and went to only a 3rd place finish.

Although the Dream Team VII didn’t win the gold medal in Japan but year one of the three-year had already shown a promising start, but could the players really follow up on their words and commit to the team, we will have to wait and see. On the other hand, the other teams around the world are improving in a rapid rate, the future Dream Teams, if they don’t drop the name, need to show more respect to all other teams and be ready to play hard start to finish each game in the tournament. Because in World Championship and Olympics, when you get to the knockout rounds, it is just one game, win or lose, unlike a seven games, first to four wins series in the NBA playoffs. With the US still has the most elite players, the individuals that are and will be selected for the Dream Team should still be the best of all national teams around the world, the US team should still be the favourite entering the Olympics in 2008, but the players must find a way to play together as a team to win.

This link give the roster and result of each Dream Team.

No comments: