Ready to watch Olympic basketball? If you're most comfortable with NBA and NCAA play, then prepare yourself for a few adjustments.
As governed by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA or Federation Internationale de Basketball Amateur), the Olympic game offers a few differences apparent to American players and spectators.
One difference is some variations in rules; another difference is varying styles of play by other national teams.
"Yeah, it's a different game more of a finesse game, a great deal of passing," said Utah Jazz forward and U.S. national team player Carlos Boozer, who first started playing international ball in 2001 and participated in the 2004 Athens Games. "It's a lot like the college game more than the NBA. It's motion, pass, cut, place yourself not so much pick and roll, not so much isolation."
The Olympics will feature its fair share of strong isolation specialists familiar to NBA fans, ranging from Argentina's Manu Ginobili to Spain's Jose Calderon.
"They're all very good one-on-one players," Boozer said. "But as a team, it seems like more of a passing, get-everybody-involved, motion type of game."
Deron Williams, Boozer's Jazz teammate and a first-time Olympian, doesn't think he'll need to make many adjustments for the international style, especially after getting his first taste of it at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship.
"I think (the United States) went with the bigger point guards last year because of the style of play and the physicalness of international play," said Williams. "So I think my game is suited well for it."
A couple of jarring rules differences include a wider-
at-the-endline, trapezoid-shaped lane and allowing what Americans consider offensive and defensive goaltending.
"If the ball's on the rim, a defender can knock it off the rim and it's not goaltending it's a block," Boozer said, adding that an offensive player also can touch the ball on or above the cylinder for a put-back and score.
It takes practice and a different type of mindset to change from years of American high school, college and NBA rules and adjust in a few short weeks to play the international rules.
To help Boozer and the 2004 U.S. Olympic team prepare for the Athens Games, U.S. head coach Larry Brown and his staff used videos of the 2000 American squad especially center Alonzo Mourning playing in Sydney to help players prepare for the changes.
"Larry Brown and Gregg Popovich gave us tapes of 'Zo in 2000 knocking the ball off the rim so that we can get in our minds that if the ball's on the rim and we're on the defensive end, we can just knock it off," said Boozer. "Otherwise, it might be two points for the other team.
"So, it's just a different way of thinking."And one example of a different way of playing.