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Team USA zones out

Aug 13, 2010, 2:03 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for USA_Logo.jpgJaVale McGee came off the bench on a weak Washington Wizards team last season. Yet me may well make Team USA and suit up for the squad at the World Championships in Turkey.

Which illustrates just how short the American squad is on big men (Remember Brook Lopez Amar’e Stoudemire and David Lee had to pull out). Tyson Chandler has looked good, but after that…

That is why the squad is being force-fed a zone defense, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

Playing zone, coaches say, will position more bodies near the backboards. To that end, the U.S. has tapped assistant coach Jim Boeheim, who has employed the zone at Syracuse for more than three decades, to teach the principles of the defense to the U.S. team.

Most players are familiar with the zone, but few have played it since high school while some have never played it at all. And the early results showed: When the U.S. switched defenses during scrimmages, blown coverages often led to wide-open threes. And on one possession, an out-of-position U.S. team gave up three straight offensive rebounds.

For the most part, Team USA is going to rely on its amazing athleticism and a pressure defense. The goal is to create turnovers that will get the USA out and running in transition, where they will be nearly unstoppable.

But in the group stage they will play Brazil, which has Leandro Barbosa in the backcourt — an NBA point guard who can handle that pressure and break it down. Then along the back line they can throw out there Nene, Anderson Varejao and soon-to-be Spur Tiago Splitter.

That is when the USA will need the zone — when the pressure is less likely to work and they will need more bodies on the glass. The zone will put a lot of pressure on Team USA guards to cover more space and pressure on the big men to work together to box out. Boeheim says the players are picking it up quickly, but doing that in practice and doing it against a seasoned international team is another.

However, if the USA wants a gold they are going to have to zone out for a while.

  1. Francisco Rodriguez - Aug 13, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    That’s one of the reasons why it is very unlikely that Team USA will win this championship. The rest of the countries have been playing with those systems forever and players are use play with each other within the zone. Spain’s coach 4 years ago was a master of switching between different types of zones (3-2, 1-3-1, etc…) and individual defense, and if you add that those players have been playing together for many years, then you get a title. The former Yugoslavia countries are also very good at this. And when the transition between those type of defenses is done seamlessly, then the magic starts to work. And that only happens when players know each other very well.
    With the USA Olympic team you did not need that. Having such a bunch of superstars will likely give you any title. But with this year’s team, counting that they haven’t played together ever and with that lack of big men, it’s going to be incredible tough for the USA to win. In fact, they will not. And yes, they will win some games for 40+ points of difference and they will be an awesome offensive machine, no doubt about it, but there will be one game in the 1/8ths, 1/4ths, semifinal or final that they will lose because they will not be able to rebound and beat a team that play a slow game… and that’ll be it… remember Greece.
    Just a prediction… and nice article.
    Kind regards,

  2. Brandan - Aug 13, 2010 at 7:34 PM

    The upside for them is that many countries are not going to have their stars, not only NBA but Euroleague and from other leagues. But something I always said I don’t like about the NBA style is that they focus too much on 1on1 when basketball is not 1on1 is 5on5. They have by far the best athleticism, but awkwardly they have poor essential basketball. Sorry for being so honest but when they bring their prime team to International competitions they just bully other teams in physical advantage knowing back home US have the best benefits and facilities when it comes to sports. Not that I wish them bad, but when they lose I feel slightly happy, cause I would love US to start earning those victories the right way. Besides I like competition and is boring to see your team go and win like you played the Grandmas national team.

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