Team USA should tap international American stars

Originally Published: August 19, 2004
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider

After three weeks of watching Team USA sleepwalk through the prelims and the opening games of the Olympics, the team caught fire in the second half versus Australia on Thursday, dominating with physical, aggressive defense on the perimeter and the inside play of Tim Duncan.

The keys to Team USA's success start with getting the ball to Duncan in the middle. Against a very porous Australian front line, Duncan dominated. He scored 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting and was essentially unstoppable when he caught the ball in the paint. Other international teams will provide stiffer defense against Duncan in the middle, but there's no reason that anyone on Team USA should take more shots than Duncan. He's the best player in the world.

After getting burned by the Australian shooters in the first half, Team USA got aggressive in the second half, crowding the perimeter and harassing shooters into taking off balance, wild 3s. Led by Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom, this was the first time we've seen Team USA really crowd the perimeter they way they need to.

The top players on Team USA are also beginning to separate themselves from the pack. Duncan and Iverson have been great. James should be getting 25 to 30 minutes a night alongside Duncan and Iverson. He's the best passer on the team and has been a force defensively. Most importantly, good things seem to happen when LeBron is on the floor.

Odom and Marion have also been good over the past couple of games, doing all the little things Brown has asked them to do. That should be Larry's starting five and he should stick with them all for 25 to 30 minutes a night.

On the flip side, Richard Jefferson and Stephon Marbury in particular, have been awful. Brown's insistence on starting them is ridiculous. Like many other NBA players, their games, as good as they are, don't translate at the international level. They don't have the shooting ability or team mindset you need to play at this level.

While many European stars would be awful in NBA, the reverse is also true. There are some NBA stars who wouldn't see the light of day on a good Euroleague team. Jefferson and Marbury are prime examples.

That leads me to a modest proposal for the powers that be at USA basketball.

Let's forget filling up our international teams with NBA stars and start tapping a pristine reserve of American basketball players that no one talks about. Let's have the role players on Team USA come from a pool of Americans overseas who happen to be international stars.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer