Team USA will take on Argentina Wednesday afternoon amid a climate of mockery and derision based on how they’ve played their last three game — all victories, but all lacking the defensive precision and intensity one would hope for.
If America’s style of play feels vaguely familiar to Knicks fans, it can be summed up as it was by friends of P&T Dan Devine and Robby Kalland:
FARTDOG was in full effect against the likes of France, Serbia and Australia: call it “CHIEN DE FART”, “фарт пас”, “BUM-BLASTER DINGO” or however you will. It has traveled across the Americas, following Carmelo Anthony like a hungry...um, dog.
Our man Melo averaged a tidy 15.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists (against only 0.8 turnovers) in 26.1 minutes per game during pool play. He has played the role of stretch 4 to perfection, shooting 44.1% from three and grabbing more rebounds than any American besides DeMarcus Cousins (5.2 boards per game), all while guarding much larger opponents like Boris Diaw and Aron Baynes. His contributions on the glass are a big reason why the USA leads all countries in rebounds per game despite playing mostly small-ball lineups. Oh, and he has bailed them in each of the last three games with a parade of clutch buckets.
Oh, and if the USA loses, he’s going to get way too much of the blame, regardless of how he plays.
You know it’s coming. The carnival of anti-Melo takes has already reach absurd levels. Talking heads are calling him out for saying he could be content without an NBA title. Shit-heel columnist Phil Mushnick basically accused him of throwing up gang signs. He has become the poster child for the USA’s iso-ball tendencies, despite the fact that they average more assists per game (26.4) than any other country. And he will assuredly take an outsized portion of the blame for their terrible perimeter defense, despite the fact that he spends most of his time guarding frontcourt opponents.
During the past season I wrote about “Dad Melo” — a concept that was nearly as much about Melo’s teammates as the player himself. Dad Melo is the guy who has to settle the game down when the kids get out of control, taking dumb shots, turning the ball over and generally acting as if they have already won.
I never expected him to be forced into the same role with a vastly superior USA squad, yet here we are. The youngsters are screwing around. A collection of some of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders have suddenly forgotten how to defend, turning each contest into a shootout and shoving the late-game responsibilities largely into the hands of Melo and Kyrie Irving. It’s not a good way to win basketball games, but they’ve pulled it off thus far.
And if they should stumble, let’s find a better way to dole out the blame. Carmelo Anthony shouldn’t have to play dad every game; his teammates sure as hell aren’t children.