Saturday, August 21, 2004

Let's just call them the Nightmare Team

In all fairness, this Lithuanian men's basketball team is awfully good. The Lithuanians have been coming on strong for years — Dallas Mavericks general manager and longtime Lithuanian assistant coach Donn Nelson has contributed greatly to helping them improve their game, and they've produced a growing number of NBA-caliber players, including former Warrior Sarunas Marchiulionis and current Cleveland Cavaliers star Zydrunas Ilgauskas. (Nelson, to his credit, viewed today's contest from the stands. After the Lithuanians came within an eyelash of beating the U.S. squad in Sydney four years ago, Nelson vowed never to coach directly against his countrymen again.)

But until we put a team on the floor with genuine outside shooting ability, we'll always be trading two points for three against the better international teams, who practice shooting the lights out from beyond the arc. Watching the U.S. team clang shot after shot off the back iron is agonizing.

Despite the two losses — as many as American teams have lost collectively in nearly 60 years of Olympic hoops history — the U.S. should advance to the next round, as their next opponent will be Angola, the weakest team in their bracket. But if our guys want to come home with bemedalled necks and egg-free faces, they'd better spend some quality floor time in shootaround the next couple of days.

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