With the Olympics reaching its climax there are still plenty of medals available. One of those is for the men's basketball in which the USA team are firm favourites to claim gold. Tonight sees them play fierce rivals Argentina in the semi-final and this will be the third time the two sides have met in the last twenty days and also the third consecutive Olympic semi-final match up between the two countries.
Sportsvibe managed to catch up with legendary defensive player and three time NBA champion Bruce Bowen at NBA House to find out his views on a range of topics from the USA Medal chances, to what it takes to succeed at the highest level, and the impact the Olympics will have on the game this side of the Atlantic.
What does it take to succeed on the defensive side of the ball and is the game too focussed on just scoring points and playing 'sexy' offensive basketball?
"For our team, I did what was necessary. A lot of people don't realise that prior to playing in the NBA, I was a scorer and in the leagues I played in, I averaged a lot of points but if you want to be a part of something special then you're going to have to minimise certain things in order to allow other people to be special. With Manu (Ginobili), Tony (Parker), and Tim (Duncan), we all had different things that we did - Tony's ability to penetrate and get into the paint helped Manu's offense as well because they couldn't double team Tony or Tim so much because they had to worry about Manu's game. I think when it comes to putting a team together you have to have guys that are willing to be selfless at different times in order to accomplish a goal and the goal for us was Championships and so to be a part of that is what it's all about."
Is the key to being a defensive player down to desire?
"I think a lot of it comes down to desire. I'd say about three-quarters of it is to do with desire and it's a matter of understanding that this is what's key for us to win. When guys start to see that goal as far as the medal and understanding that if I give a little bit on this end then it will help on the other things in terms of us winning. I think that then breeds the idea of everyone buying into the same process of being strong defensively. In terms of my career though, I could have been a guy who averaged fifteen points a game but on a bad team and no one ever hears about it but I wanted to win Championships."
Do you see anyone beating the USA in these Olympics?
"I don't think so but then again I can say that all day! It's a mindset of what the USA team have to bring out there. They can't get lazy as we saw against Lithuania after they'd come off a game against Nigeria where they scored a ridiculous amount of points. I think when you get those type of games that it is then key to get a good, hard practice session in. Unfortunately in this tournament they don't have the facilities here for that to happen and when that's the case there is no point talking about it, you've just got to get out on the floor and get after it."
Coach Mike Krzyzewski has been involved with Team USA since 1979 and has been coached twelve USA teams in that time. His tally of eight gold medals, two silver medals, and two bronze medals and all his success as head coach at Duke University saw him inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame back in 2001. Affectionately known as Coach K, he has indicated that he may step down as coach after London 2012 and there have been various calls for San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to take over. Who is the best man to take USA basketball forward?
"I'm in support of whoever is the coach and of course I'd love to see Gregg Popovich get an opportunity to represent our country especially given the fact that he spent time in Air Force and so I'd love to see that. At the same time however, the US delegation selects the coach and they will do their best to make sure we have someone who will represent the country and the game the way it should be. When you talk about the Olympics, I don't think there is anyone who is upset with another coach's opportunity to do something like that. You have to take in to account all the things that it means and representing your country is truly something special and so I'm happy for whoever is coach."
What impact do you think having such a strong USA team over for the Olympics will have on the game over here?
"It is something we have come to strive to represent. I think if you're not talking about the USA being involved in a gold medal game then it's a let down. It's not arrogance and I'm sure a lot of other countries feel the same about their team. It's not looking beyond other talent but I think whenever you play sport you strive to be the best and that comes from working the hardest. I think the USA team in all the events they're involved have strived to be the best they could be and if it happens then fantastic but it also shows that other teams in the world are doing it just as well and the impact is not just from the USA. I just think it's great that each country has the thought process that they want to be the best and the only way we figure it out is to go to the Olympics and compete on the highest stage."
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