Oftentimes, it's easy to just believe that Team USA is infallible with their disposal of talent -- which comes with the territory of having 12 of the best athletes in the world on the same squad. But they are indeed capable of mistakes and any well-coached international team, with a hard-and-fast system executed consistently enough, can topple what is widely considered the premier program in international play.
United States head coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn't take winning for granted. Krzyzewski has only lost one game in his 63-game tenure as head coach, and his team hasn't dropped a game in 50 consecutive matches.
Yet it takes a lot more than showing up, he said, because international players like San Antonio Spurs' Manu Ginobili, the sefless leader of an Argentinian team who defeated the United States in a 2004 semifinals bout in Olympic play and eventually earned the gold medal, are proven NBA caliber talent that aren't afraid of challenging the best players in the world on every possession. Its what they do. And there's often multiple players -- Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Andrew Bogut, to name a few-- on each team.
"When you're playing Argentina or Spain, it's a hell of a game," Krzyzewski said. "Those guys are playing at a whole other level."If you watch San Antonio (Spurs) play, take about five minutes and just watch (Argentina's Manu) Ginobili, and you'll see one of the great, great players of the world play. We've seen that. We appreciate that.And we appreciate it enough to work our fannies off to develop a team that's worthy of winning against that type of feeling, that type of talent and that type of passion for the game.If you don't do that for the United States, you're going to lose. You're not going to win by showing up. And our guys know that. The guys that played know that, 100 percent."
Ginobili's Argentinian bunch is getting a bit older, and thus less likely to give the Americans the same scare they did nine years ago. But, even in a declined state, Coach K and his team are still aware of their potential.
Because any team with Ginobili always plays wonderful team basketball -- and when Ginobli is the catalyst of said offense, whipping his lanky frame in the paint and collapsing the defense, there will always be an opportunity to pull off an upset.