By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For FOX Deportes
One thing USA Olympic men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski would like to see from his team going into the London Games is defensive intensity. He broke it down with the points Brazil scored in four quarters against the Americans.
“If this team doesn’t have that, we’re going to get scored on,” Coach K said. “Twenty-seven points in 10 minutes and 42 in 30, it’s a huge difference.”
The squad of NBA stars went from out of sync in the first quarter to forcing turnover after turnover throughout the rest of the game. The USA won 80-69.
With intensity comes some physical play, and it seems clear is that other teams in the Olympic tournament will have an overall size advantage over the USA. Brazil tried to use its height at the big man positions to its advantage on Monday in Washington D.C., and also looked to send a message that it wasn’t afraid to body up with the Americans.
Carmelo Anthony started at the “4” spot over Kevin Durant. Six-foot-six small forward Andre Iguodala (in photo above) came off the bench and had to defend bigger players at times, and Krzyzewski was impressed.
“They battled,” he said. “One thing I want to talk to our guys about is the fact that Kevin Durant, Carmelo, they’re scorers. And when they have to play a big like that (hard defense) there’s a lot of physicality that when you get to the offensive end of the court, it has its impact on you. There’s like a little bit different concentration than it would be if you were guarding the ‘3’ (small forward). You get hit, you get hit in the mouth. Nothing illegal or anything, but playing big guys like that is much more distracting.”
At one point in the game, guard Chris Paul banged into Brazil forward Anderson Varejao and caused a loose ball and turnover. Coming up the court, Varejao purposely ran right into Paul and knocked him down, as if Brazil was trying to say that if the Americans were going to be aggressive, the Brazilians will hit back even harder.
It’s conceivable that other teams will look to do the same, as every team the USA faces will try anything to throw the superstars off their game. Slowing the tempo, creating matchup problems or making sure that the Americans feel every foul will likely be part of such frustration strategies to keep the USA from winning via blowout.
Coach K feels he can put Iguodala on the court against any player on the other team, and Iguodala can be the designated defensive stopper that every elite team needs.
“Teams are going to try anything to get under our skin and try to get us out of our game,” Iguodala said. “But we handled that (Varejao) situation the right way. We’re going to go over there (to London) and handle ourselves like young men and represent our country in the best way.”
It promises to be a different game in Olympic basketball. Different kinds of officiating, different rules, different teams and playing styles and different game plans. FIBA ball is not the NBA, and the Americans must make the proper adjustments and take teams’ best shots in order to get the gold medals they’re expected to win.