ATHENS, Greece -- Same starting lineup, same subs, same
tactics. The U.S. basketball team may be an unimpressive 1-1 in the
Olympic tournament, but coach Larry Brown won't do any tinkering
for Thursday's game against Australia.
"I'm not smart enough to change," Brown said with a smile
Wednesday. "I don't have enough time. ... We just got to play with
the same energy we played with (Tuesday) night" in a win against
That likely means that Richard Jefferson, who shot 0-for-7
against Greece and 3-for-16 against Puerto Rico, will remain the
starting small forward. And LeBron James, whose defensive energy
produced three breakaway dunks in the second quarter, will continue
to come off the bench at shooting guard behind Allen Iverson.
Brown has never been one to make wholesale changes on the fly,
and he's not about to start now -- even with observers wondering why
he isn't making more use of full-court pressure or half-court traps
that cause turnovers.
Even Brown noted that his team is taking more 3s than its
opponents -- and not making many (7-for-45). That's got to change,
"Whatever he feels is the best thing to do to win, that's what
we're going to do," said Stephon Marbury, who has played
full-court man-to-man defense against opposing point guards but
hasn't been all that disruptive.
Brown believes winning or losing will be determined by effort -- players diving on the floor for loose balls, boxing out underneath
for defensive rebounds and making the extra pass against the zone
defense to open up mid-range scoring opportunities.
The Americans have done those things at times, but never for a
And if they don't get into the habit of playing with extra
effort for a full 40 minutes, their chances of standing on the
medal podium will dwindle fast.
"A lot of guys gave up their bodies to make plays last night.
We played to win," Brown said following a brief practice at the
American College of Greece. "When you see LeBron going on the
floor and Timmy (Duncan) going on the floor, and that's why we
ended up playing better.
"A lot of guys played under difficult circumstances, and the
end result is they all made contributions -- (Amare) Stoudemire with
Timmy in foul trouble gave us some real good minutes, and Lamar
(Odom) won the game down the stretch with some unbelievable
defensive plays. That's what it's all about and that's what it
Against Australia, the Americans will need to concentrate on
stopping point guard Shane Heal, a veteran of both the NBA and the
Euroleague known for his sharpshooting from 3-point range.
Like the U.S. team, the Australian team has shown itself to be
Australia, the United States, Puerto Rico and Greece all have
1-1 records in Group A, which Lithuania leads with a 2-0 record.
Angola (0-2) is last in the six-team group from which four teams
will advance to the quarterfinals.
Thursday's other games are Serbia and Montenegro-New Zealand,
Italy-Spain, Puerto Rico-Angola, Argentina-China and
One of Lithuania's assistant coaches is American Donnie Nelson,
the general manager of the Dallas Mavericks and a longtime
participant in international basketball.
Nelson sees the U.S. team's struggles as symptomatic of a
breakdown that begins at the developmental level and is exacerbated
by America's fascination with dunks, athleticism, sneaker contracts
and the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
"This team and this group of coaches shouldn't take the bullet
for our lack of development. Other countries that have a lot less
in the way of emphasis on the sport, the numbers of athletes that
gravitate to the sport, money, educational periodicals and tapes.
So there shouldn't be any reason that our guys are not capable of
doing certain things," Nelson said.
"We've been seeing this for a long time, and again, there isn't
a better teacher in basketball than Larry Brown. But you've got to
have receptive students in order for a team to be effective. ...
You can't just shuttle out gear, and have the best Nikes, and not
be able to shoot a jump shot."