After sleepwalking by Lithuania in Olympic basketball, and watching as Team USA hurled three-pointers at the rim as if they were participating in a mindless All-Star weekend specialty contest, it was confirmed that our players are in London to scrimmage and have an off-season blast.
It's absurd to feel bothered or dismayed about this state of mind. After all, they are the best team in the Olympic tournament by a great distance. You have a sense that if they were motivated to play at a playoff intensity, the Olympic people might call the whole thing off.
But the mind does wander back to that Nigeria game the other day, when the Americans emerged victorious by about a million points, racking up 156 along the way as if the opposition stepped aside and allowed Team USA free access to do as they pleased. Heck, they virtually did. In that spectacle, the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points in the time elapsed for a viewer's bathroom break.
Anthony receives a load of criticism and remains under a consistent veil of scrutiny during the NBA season because his team, the Knicks, should be better than they are with him in the driver's seat. As a maximum contract player, fans seek completeness from him - a force on both ends of the basketball floor. In simple terms, that's a lot of dough for a guy who shoots constantly, scores a bunch of points, and that's it. Perhaps it's unfair to analyze a performance in a meaningless international basketball game against the likes of Nigeria. But wasn't that demonstration typical Carmelo Anthony? He seemed to be probing just how thoroughly he could bully inferior competition. It's no surprise the last person to ring the till at that pace in the Olympics was Stephon Marbury, another concerned all too much with the stat sheet.
No one is claiming Carmelo Anthony doesn't play hard. He does. No one is claiming he doesn't ache to win. He clearly does. But his discomfort with the popularity of Jeremy Lin and style of basketball necessary to be consistently successful suggests the victory needs to be first and foremost about him. Perhaps that's why resonant performances occur in games against Nigeria, and not against the Miami Heat.
Glenn Vallach has been a basketball fan, player, and coach during his lifetime and, as such, an ardent follower of the NBA even with all its warts. He have also been a New York Knick fan since the days of Howie Komives and Walt Bellamy, when he regularly boarded the IRT Subway at 180th Street in the Bronx for a trip to the Garden to see his heroes.
•Yahoo! Sports New York Knicks page
•Yahoo! Sports Jeremy Lin page
•Yahoo! Sports Carmelo Anthony page
• Kelly Dwyer, Fourth-Place Medal, Yahoo! Sports, Behind the Box Score, where LeBron James led Team USA in a nail-biter over Lithuania