For those of us who made it up early from a late slumber on Sunday, we were witness to what looks to be a new era of USA Basketball. If any game smelled of an opening round upset it was this one. Yao Ming, the pride of China, had the cheers of one billion-plus on his side as he took on what had seemed to be a shaky team. It was the U.S. after all that had stumbled into the Olympics following close calls in Macau including a rough game with the Australians. A 101-70 final later and the U.S. looks like a blue collar version of the 1992 Dream Team.
The team has a whole different feel this time around. Back in 1992, many of these nations were taking pictures with the Americans before the game began. They were asking for autographs with this team and the Croatians were even thrilled to take a small 25-23 lead during the gold medal game. The only Piston at that time wasn’t even in uniform, Chuck Daly was coaching the team after Isiah Thomas was suspiciously left off.
For the first time in many years, the U.S. brings a different focus and outlook this time around. Championship hungry players like LeBron James and Dwight Howard now dot the landscape as does the Pistons defensive-minded Tayshaun Prince. Though the jobs of these role players seem rather limited at the moment, look for players like Prince and Carlos Boozer to be extremely valuable in upcoming games against Greece and Spain.