Some of the thoughts floating through my mind while watching Team USA rout Greece Thursday morning:
- Whew! I'm a bit relieved. There's still a long way to go to win the gold medal, but after so-so performances against China and Angola, this demolition bolstered my faith in the NBA stars. I've never wavered from saying they'll win gold, but this was good to see. Their defense was spectacular, and they solved Greece's zone with great dribble penetration.
- Dwyane Wade is back. All the way back! In fact, he may be better than ever, what with his added strength from his newfound love of lifting. I admit that I was among the skeptics. I thought Wade would still play at an All-Star level, but I had strong doubts as to whether he'd ever reach his 2006 form again. I wasn't sure that he should have even been on Team USA because I thought he'd be a lesser duplication of Kobe Bryant. But Wade's been far better than Bryant -- offensively and defensively. Hopefully, he can stay healthy for the upcoming NBA season (not just healthy enough to play, but fully healthy and free from nagging injuries) because he's putting himself back in the conversation with LeBron and Kobe for the game's premier player. Oh, and Michael Beasley's prediction that Miami will return to the playoffs next season is looking better and better.
- Dallas is in trouble. Jason Kidd -- God bless him because he's had a terrific career -- is fading. It's understandable; I mean, he's 35 years old. You can't play in your prime forever. With Chris Paul and Deron Williams, Team USA will be fine, but the bigger concern is the Mavericks. Last season's desperation move is going to haunt them big-time because Kidd doesn't have elite play left in him, at least not on a consistent basis. When you look at the point guards Kidd has to face out West, the Mavs will be at a disadvantage many, many nights: Paul, Williams, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Baron Davis, Monta Ellis. Rick Carlisle's a strong coach and Dallas, while no longer a contender, can still make the playoffs, but I won't be shocked if they don't. The Lakers, New Orleans, San Antonio, Utah, Houston and Phoenix are all ahead of them, so they could be in a dogfight with Denver, Portland, Golden State and the Clippers for those seventh and eighth seeds.
- Chris Bosh has really impressed me. He's been tremendous. His versatility (able to play big inside while guarding the perimeter as well) has been key for this team. He's already a star, but he may make the jump to superstar next season. If Jermaine O'Neal is healthy and close to the player he used to be, the Raptors could be a threat in the East.
- I love being the undisputed basketball king of the world (i.e., whipping every other country by 30-plus), but I have to admit that the struggles of the past eight years have made these Olympics more interesting. For basketball fans, this is now must-see TV. I mean I'm really hyped for these games, which certainly wasn't the case before 2000 when we were waxing everyone in dunkfests.
- The loss to Greece in '06 was a blessing in disguise. Team USA wouldn't be taking these games as seriously if it had waltzed through that tournament, and the wake-up call may have come on this Olympic stage. Now, we're totally engaged, especially defensively. We've got most of our best players, as well as stars willing to be role players. We should roll. Let's see what happens against Spain on Saturday.