This summer saw the triumph of Die Mannschaft in a contest we shall henceforth refer to as The Other World Cup. The World Cup of Less Diving and More Squeaking Shoes starts in a matter of hours, or on August 30th, at any rate. Do you have FIBA fever? I know I do, because I feel shaky, but awesome, at the same time. It's unlike FIFA fever where your soul gets sick because you looked at Sepp Blatter too long and then you spend a lot of time running to the bathroom. Its a good kind of fever, FIBA Fever.
The Cup in Question is the World Cup of Basketball, and it's a World Cup the USA had damn well better win. Getting out of the group, quarters, or even semis is unacceptable - only by winning the thing can the USA feel it earned its trip to Spain. And Spain is the most likely stumbling block to a second consecutive title.
Spain are very good, and they'll be playing at home to a crowd that possibly wants something to help them forget La Furia Roja's ignominious expulsion from The Other World Cup. They didn't do as well as the USA at the sport they are presumably best at. La NBA Roja is likely the biggest threat to the USA with its big front court of the germans Gasol and Serge Ibaka, and also some guards who are perhaps less impressive than we'd been lead to believe.
Team USA counters with The New Guard of Derek Rose, Steph Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Demarcus Cousins, and a bunch of other young stars or near stars. The USA team isn't particularly big in the frontcourt, but they can fill it up with shooting and driving talent. They might send out a lineup of all PG/SGs for some Microball.
Maybe it's the Rockets fan in me but I think this tourney will mark James Harden making The Leap, from star to unquestioned franchise player. It's the right age, and the right forum, and Harden has spent an offseason hearing nothing but criticism of his play, his game, and even the content of his character.
I think the USA comes home with a World Cup victory, and James Harden comes home a hero*. What say you?
*The narrative on Harden may be helped greatly by the possibility that Nike will badly need another big time NBA star if Durant goes to Under Armor.