Brown: It's all about effort
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 Greece.
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, he said.
"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 full game.
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 takes."
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 wildly inconsistent.
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 Greece-Lithuania.
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."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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