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NBA AM: No Match For Team USA

Team USA strolled their way to a Gold medal in Spain. Is there anyone on the world stage that can challenge them in 2016?

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Gold Again: Back in July when Team USA opened training camp in Las Vegas, many of the NBA’s elite players either bowed out or left camp early. There was this belief that maybe this year’s team wouldn’t have the star power to compete and that despite having the deepest pool of talent to choose from in basketball, there were doubters. Those doubters got louder when Indiana Pacers forward Paul George went down to a gruesome injury and Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant abruptly pulled out, once the team arrived in Chicago.

Where would the scoring come from? Who would play small forward?

This year’s squad got challenged a little in the opening games. They let some teams hang around a little. Their focus was lacking at times and then the games that mattered started to be played.

An 86-63 win over Mexico, a 119-76 win over Slovenia, a 96-68 win over Lithuania, which culminated in a crushing 129-92 win over Serbia.

Was it even a contest?

This wasn’t even the best of the best and Team USA cruised through the best the world had to offer and barely broke a sweat.

Sure seeing what Spain could have done would have been interesting because of their size, but they were dropped by France in the Quarterfinals.

For all the pomp and circumstance, for all the debate about whether the team had enough, in the end the gold medal was won and USA basketball proved that even with the next tier of guys they were no match for some of the best basketball players in the world.

The ticket to Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games is punched, and the NBA’s best and brightest will suit up for that one, because an Olympic medal matters a lot more than a World Cup medal. Many of the guys that played their hearts out in Spain will get a shot at that roster, but for all the talk of Team USA not being what it once was, the results say differently.

If you talk to people that were around in 1992, when the first Dream Team took the floor in Barcelona, it was viewed as the day the world started to care about basketball. It’s the point in basketball history were the game started to become Global.

It will be interesting to see if the world can respond to what Team USA has become. It will be interesting to see if one of the young and hungry international squads like Australia or Canada can come together in two years and really give Team USA a game in Rio.

What’s clear today, that many didn’t see way back in July is that even with the next tier of guys, Team USA has the deepest pool of talent in the world. The luxury of riches chairman Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski have to choose from every summer is unmatched and until the world catches up or guys sour on the process, is there really anyone in the field that can challenge in international basketball?

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Garnett Staying Quiet: The Brooklyn Nets are operating under the assumption that 19-year NBA veteran and future Hall of Fame big man Kevin Garnett is going to return for his 20th NBA season. However, they have yet to get official confirmation from Garnett, which is a little troubling given that the start of training camp is just a couple of weeks away, according to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. 

Garnett was acquired by the Nets last summer in a blockbuster transaction that also included Paul Pierce. It was Pierce’s willingness to go to Brooklyn that helped convinced Garnett to waive his no-trade clause in order for the deal to be completed.

The hope that the two would help the Nets field an instant contender did not come to fruition. Garnett played the worst basketball of his career by far, the Nets dug themselves in a big hole early and then lost their best player Brook Lopez for the rest of the season midway through. They did manage to make the playoffs, but for one of the most expensive teams in league history, the Nets were a disappointment to say the least.

This offseason Pierce became an unrestricted free agent. Set to pay the increased, stiff luxury tax penalties, the Nets were put in a position where they really couldn’t afford him, especially considering how far they were from contention. So, Pierce left for the upstart Washington Wizards, and now Garnett finds himself in a situation that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be in at first, with the reason why he committed moved on to another team. Not to mention, the Nets have a new head coach as well after they let Jason Kidd take the Milwaukee Bucks head coaching job and replaced him with Lionel Hollins.

With nothing left to prove and his days competing for a championship seemingly over, thoughts of retirement have to occur often for the 38 year old.

Based off of his struggles for the majority of last season, the Nets are probably prepared to move on without Garnett anyway, although the most ideal situation would be for him to come in and play one final season, see how he fares in Hollins’ post-centric system.

No team likes to be dealing with uncertainty at this point of the offseason, but with a couple of young big men ready to take his place in Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic, Garnett’s decision is more of a formality than something that will make or break the Nets season. They just simply need to know so that the next course of action can be put into place.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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