Saitama, Japan -- Yesterday I experienced my first-ever earthquake, a 4.8er that shook me up good on the 10th floor of my hotel. Tonight I saw Team USA get rattled in a loss to Greece that pretty much ended their FIBA World Championship.
I am not surprised they lost, I am surprised it was to Greece, who didn't impress me against France two days ago. LeBron told me he was very disappointed.
At a time like this many people want to play the blame game. It is Mike Krzyzewski or Jerry Colangelo or a player or group of players. Based on my e-mail, some people are blaming me because I said Kobe Bryant might not fit in on the team and LeBron actually has been working at his defense. Though no one played good defense for the U.S. tonight (this morning for you stateside).
Here is the thing, I don't think it is fair to blame any one person or any one reason. Team defense, especially on the pick and roll can be fingered in this one. So can hubris. But even if the U.S. somehow survived they might not have beaten Spain for different reasons.
Look, it is just hard to win this thing. I'm not defending the U.S., they, or we or whatever you want to say, have let it get to this. For so many reasons, the NBA style being tops, the Americans play a foreign game here. They are at an extreme talent advantage and an extreme disadvantage at everything else. The basketball world has changed and I'm not sure the USA can ever really get itself back on track.
After following this team for the last six weeks, they genuinely thought this was going to work. So did I, even though I knew it would be hard. I saw how they handled themselves, I talked to all the players and coaches, I talked to people who were watching from outside. I saw how they shared, how they worked hard in practice, how they seemed to rally behind each other.
Even though it didn't pay off, I can't believe they didn't make strides here with this whole exercise. It is easy to rip them now, easy to say nothing has changed, easy to take shots at people that looked like they were swallowing the Kool-Aid. Then they have a bad two quarters and it is over.
One of the things I believe in is looking at everything with perspective, taking the long view. I am trying to do it now, but I can't for sure say all this will actually help in 2008. Perhaps time will help as it does the teams that regularly beat the Americans. But I'm also a realist and I know the makeup of this team will change in the next two years. Colangelo said as much after the game tonight.
Perhaps my opinion will as well.