Read Chris Sheridan and watch USA Hoops
Now, don't get me wrong, I hate America as much as the next guy, but I don't think anything brings out the patriotism in me as much as USA basketball.
It probably all started in 2004, when Allen "All Heart" Iverson was carrying a mediocre, poorly coached Larry Brown team in Athens. Factoring out benched players Brown (cough, cough, LeBron), the team basically had nobody, played up to its potential, and got totally vilified in the States -- from press and fans alike -- for finishing third in the world. I repeat: third... in the entire world. Bronze, baby.
Now, I know the expectations of USA basketball are pretty high -- and with good reason -- but the team matched its potential. Maybe even overachieved it.
This year is different. The team's ceiling is a lot higher. And still, haters like Dan Shanoff are still using the expression USA Oops. Man, I hate him sometimes.
LeBron. Carmelo. D-Wade. Dwight Howard. Kobe... as a defensive stopper!
The team is gross. Envisioning the havoc they'll likely wreak in the Beijing had me on the same plain of excitement for basketball which only could be compared with the late nineties Bulls teams. I wouldn't dare say they're better than the Dream Team, but they're pretty athletic, and I bet they'd give them a run for their money.
ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan has been on the beat almost aggressively as Pedro Gomez was on Barry Bonds watch -- except Sheridan's coverage is actually informative and good. And even better, he seems like he's really enjoying himself.
Some sweet excerpts after USA's recent pwnage of Lithuania...
We have three candidates for strangest thing we saw on Friday: a referee smoking a cigarette at halftime, Sarunas Jasikevius looking as if he had never played the game of basketball before and Chris Paul throwing down a dunk late in the fourth quarter.The Kobe:
Kobe Bryant's shutting down of Jasikevicius was one of the biggest eye-openers, as Team USA handled Lithuania with relative ease in a 120-84 victory that wrapped up the Macau portion of its pre-Olympic tour.Some bullets:
And, just because he's unintentionally hilarious, some more Kobe:
The best piece of defensive work was performed by Bryant, who was all over Jasikevicius the same way he was against Leandro Barbosa of Brazil last summer in the Tournament of the Americas. The box score listed just three turnovers for the former member of the Pacers and Warriors, but the count on press row was more like seven or eight.A few points:
1) This team seems to be clicking in a way only seen in unrealistic sports movies.
2) The Doberman is one of the best self-appointed, used in third-person nicknames I've heard this side of the Black Mamba.
3) In their game against Turkey yesterday, someone baseball passed an in-bounds to Kobe on the other side of the court as he ran past the deepest defensive player like a wide receive beating a safety. Kobe caught it and slammed it home. America is literally pick-up basketball-style cherry picking in international play. So sick.
Team USA opens up its Olympic play on August 10th against China. I implore you to watch these games. America might not have its all-time best squad, but it's going to be a damn good show.