- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2006

Team USA will not bring home the gold medal from the FIBA World Championship if it continues to commit crimes against the cylinder from afar.

The star-laden NBA contingent looked positively inept on offense in the quarterfinals against Germany.

Dwyane Wade even treated the crowd to two air balls from 3-point territory, which came as no surprise to anyone accustomed to his allergic reactions from that vicinity of the basketball floor.

This bout of anemia on the perimeter was reminiscent of the U.S. teams that could not shoot straight in Indianapolis in 2002 and in Athens in 2004.

The international geniuses of the hardwood inevitably resort to a familiar strategy against the Americans: Dare them to beat you from the outside.

And that was the tactic employed by Germany’s coach, which was largely effective. The U.S. team shot 37.6 from the floor and 25 percent from the 3-point line. Forty of its 85 field goal attempts came from the 3-point line, as Wade and Co. seemed convinced that they were destined to get on a 3-point roll.

The Achilles’ heel of this particular U.S. team is obvious. Its three leading players — Wade, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony — are not 3-point shooters of distinction.

They prefer to attack the basket and generate contact, which often results in a high number of free throw attempts.

FIBA’s referees do not bow at the altar of the stars, as their brethren in the NBA do, which explained the combined five free throw attempts of Wade, James and Anthony against Germany.

So when the opposition elects to pack five players around the three-second lane, and with no help coming from the referees, the U.S. team is de-clawed to an extent.

If Dirk Nowitzki had not been in a post-Heat funk, the U.S. team undoubtedly would have received its second scare of the tournament.

Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski have succeeded on a certain level in putting together a complete team. Yet they find themselves dealing with the same shortcoming as their recent predecessors.

They do not have a knock-down pure shooter among their leading players.

When Antawn Jamison is in a rhythm, as he was during the team’s exhibition schedule, he is one of the most proficient 3-point shooters in the NBA. Yet for whatever reasons, he was limited to four minutes against Germany.

Gilbert Arenas probably thought he was a lock to make the team because of his shooting ability. That view was shared by this space as well.

But as Arenas made clear in The Washington Post yesterday, he never was held in esteem by Colangelo and Krzyzewski and his so-called groin injury was about as serious as a paper cut.

The decision to send Arenas home was questionable because the one constant in the recent struggles of USA Basketball is the dearth of outside marksmen who can pull the foreigners out of their zone defenses.

The Americans overtook Germany in the second half because of their defense and offensive rebounding. But no one confuses Germany with Greece, Argentina and Spain, the other three semifinalists seen as more equipped to handle the harassing defense of the Americans.

If the Americans are to win their first gold medal in the world championship since 1994, they will not get there on rebounding and defense alone.

They now have met their most formidable opponent in the tournament and it is their shaky outside shot.

If necessary, Krzyzewski may feel compelled to abandon his two-platoon system at a certain point. Rhythm shooters, as opposed to pure shooters, need more time on the floor to find their comfort level.

The U.S. team’s surfeit of rhythm shooters hardly looked comfortable against Germany.

That has to change, and soon.

If not, Colangelo and Krzyzewski will be reduced to scratching their heads on the return flight home.

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