The USA Basketball men's national team will play against Argentina on Friday in their first friendly before the Olympics.
When: Friday, July 22, 9 p.m. ET
FIBA Rankings: USA is #1, Argentina is #4
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
Here is the roster for Team USA:
|New York Knicks
|Golden State Warriors
|Golden State Warriors
|Los Angeles Clippers
|Golden State Warriors
And here is the roster for Team Argentina:
|San Antonio Spurs
|UCAM Murcia (Liga Endesa, Spain)
|Estudiantes (Liga Endesa, Spain)
|NBA Free Agent
|Obras Basket (LNB, Argentina)
|Real Madrid (Liga Endesa, Spain)
|Quimsa (LNB, Argentina)
|Gimnasia y Esgrima de Comodoro (LNB, Argentina)
|George Washington Colonials (NCAA, USA)
|Penarol de Mar del Plata (LNB, Argentina)
Storylines to watch
Here are some storylines I'm thinking about with this friendly. Some are major themes that will persist through the Olympics.
(Relative) Youth vs. Experience - The American roster may be 27 years old average while the Argentines average just a year older than that. However, Team USA only has two players who are 30 or older (Lowry and Anthony) while Team Argentina has five players who are 30 or older (Scola, Ginobili, Delfino, Nocioni, and Mainoldi).
Does Argentina 'still have it?' Of the five older Argentines, all but Mainoldi were members of the 2004 team that won the Gold Medal in the Athens Games. And they still remain the national team's major contributors. For better or for wor worse, there really hasn't been anyone to carry the torch after the Ginobili Era for them.
Argentina was fourth place in the 2012 Olympics and 11th place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, so even though they're still a world basketball power, I'm not so sure that they have the talent to win because of the age at the top of their roster.
Can Team USA get in form right away (or at least pretty quickly)? Argentina has already played a couple friendlies against Nigeria earlier this week, splitting the series. The Argentines already have a leg up on the Americans when it comes to playing as a unit, so if sheer talent doesn't win the game, there's a good chance this game may be a bit more interesting than we'd like.
Carmelo, the sage - A lot of top-tier NBA players turned down a bid to play for Team USA, even Bradley Beal. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that Carmelo Anthony is returning for his fourth consecutive Olympics, more than any other American men's basketball player. He is now the elder statesmen and leader of the team who looks to earn his fourth medal and his third gold.
Anthony's game meshes quite well with FIBA rules when he is a power forward, arguably more than it does in the NBA. He'll have plenty of other players who can also be stretch fours like Draymond Green and Kevin Durant.
Finally. Steve Aschburner wrote a column on how Anthony is relishing the opportunity to be the leader on the American team. I know he gets a bad rap for being a "diva" in NBA play. But I also appreciate that he has willingly stepped up to the plate every time for the Olympic team though he certainly didn't have to.
Will DeAndre Jordan be a liability for Team USA? There's no doubt that Jordan is a great post defender and an efficient putback scorer. But he is a free throw liability, and there's no doubt that the Argentines would love to get a chance to get him to the stripe if they can other posts -- especially DeMarcus Cousins out of the game early.
Who will be the "pass-first" players? Jason Kidd and Chris Paul played roles as pass first, pass second, pass third players as the starting point guard for Team USA in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics respectively. Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry are the point guards on the 2016 squad, but they are better known for their scoring.
This year, there will not be a floor general along the likes of Kidd or Paul (and I kinda wish John Wall were on the team if he were healthy). Therefore, it's going to be a playmaker-by-committee since I don't see Irving or Lowry being pegged into that mold. Fortunately, there are many players who are good at dishing dimes, including Green and Durant. Most players here can fill multiple roles, and that's a strength the Americans can play to their advantage.
The Argentines may know how to play as well together as anyone, but Team USA still has an immense talent advantage and their players aren't a bunch of self-minded guys looking for their own stats. The game may be pretty close in the beginning, but the Americans should win comfortably in front of their home fans.