The Wednesday agenda for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team is a blank page.
There’s nothing there. No meetings. No team functions. No mandatory appearances. For the first time since they convened for training camp in Las Vegas four weeks ago, the next 24 hours are free.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time, according to Carmelo Anthony, who along with LeBron James and original Dream Team member David Robinson, has done this — the Olympic experience — more than any other basketball players in the history of the program.
There is only so much of the buildup and competition that an Olympic team can take before a simple day completely off is warranted. That day is now for this team, as was evident from their lackluster start that preceded their monstrous finish in Tuesday night’s 110-63 blowout win over Tunisia.
Don’t let the first seven minutes of the game fool you. The 47-point victory margin was indicative of exactly what went on in the game. But it’s what goes on between now and Thursday’s tilt against Nigeria that might be most important for this team.
Anthony bypassed the King’s English and kept it real when asked if it had to be now?
“Hell yeah, yeah,” he said and then smiled. “We’re still going to be around each other in the hotel or whatever sightseeing or other [Olympic] events we might get into. We’ve been going since Vegas non-stop and putting in a lot of work. I think [Wednesday], we definitely need that day.”
So don’t take the uneven start or U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s decision to start his second unit after halftime or anything else you saw for anything other than what it was. Everything that went on Tuesday, including the announcement hours before the game against Tunisia that they’d have Wednesday off, was done with the bigger picture in mind.
Kevin Love banging knees in the third quarter and giving the U.S. bench a scare when he limped off was the only part of the evening that didn’t go according to the script. (Love was fine after getting an ice pack for his right knee. He even came back into the game and stuck a corner 3-pointer with 4:15 to play that ended any suspense with the U.S. ahead 102-56.)
With all due respect to Tunisia, Krzyzewski had no intention of letting his team loose on them the way he would have against a different opponent, say one of the handful of teams that pose a legitimate threat to the mission.