The Weekly Roundup: The Magic of 3x3 Basketball
Singing the praises of 3x3 basketball’s Olympic debut
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Olympic basketball has arrived! Following two consecutive exhibition defeats, the United States’ 5x5 squad rebounded nicely with a 93-62 thrashing of Nigeria in their final tune-up. Can they start their journey for a seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal on the right foot Tuesday (12:40 AM Eastern) when they run it back during preliminary round play against the four-time AfroBasket champions? How will the absence of Liz Cambage impact Australia’s chances to derail the U.S. juggernaut? Will Canada bounce back from its heartbreaking defeat this morning against EuroBasket champion Serbia and win the country’s first Olympic basketball medal in 85 years? There are so many compelling subplots, and we’ll have our answers to these questions soon enough. But first, let’s dive into the Olympic debut of 3x3 basketball.
3x3: The Die Hard of Basketball
I’m exhausted. No, it’s not from a recent ill-advised attempt to play Wiffle ball with my four-year-old cousin (who I think finished 14-16 at the plate against my 20 mile per hour fastball). Instead, it’s from watching the United States’ 3x3 squad knock off a France team that boasts four of the world’s top five 3x3 players. The quartet of Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum, and Jackie Young has raced out to an impressive 6-0 start, including yesterday’s come-from-behind win against the Russian Olympic Committee and this morning’s thriller over China. It was Saturday’s contest versus France that marked my foray into the 3x3 world, and I can’t get enough of it now. The near-continuous action had me mesmerized and was equal parts chaotic and beautiful.
I could wax poetic for days about this new Olympic event, but let’s first cover a few of the main differences between 3x3 and the more traditional 5x5 game. First, the game is played in the half-court, and the shot clock is only 12 seconds long. Shots made from behind the arc are worth two points, and field goals inside the arc are worth just a point. Games last 10 minutes or until a team reaches 21 points, whichever comes first. Also, following a made field goal, the opposing team must immediately take possession of the ball directly underneath the basket (not out of bounds) and either dribble or pass the ball behind the arc. Check out the USA Basketball website for further rules. All of this results in a faster-paced affair than traditional 5x5 basketball. Just look at the highlights of the United States’ critical win over France if you don’t believe me.
Back when he was at Team USA’s training camp for the 2015 FIBA 3x3 World Championships, Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins described the unique physical demands associated with the 3x3 game. “I have to be honest, when I came out here, I thought 3x3 would be a breeze, but definitely it is serious. The training is different. You have to be able to keep going. In five-on-five, you score, you can kind of celebrate a little bit before you get back on defense. You can kind of relax for a second, but in 3x3 you can’t. It is all about the next play, literally. You have got to think fast and be prepared for anything. I think the training, if anything, is harder."
Stefanie Dolson recently offered her thoughts on the importance of conditioning and stamina in 3x3 basketball. “Being able to last three minutes straight non-stop is the most important thing,” she said. “If you can’t function when you’re tired, then you’re not going to be able to make it.”
Kudos to FIBA for recognizing the appeal of 3x3 and investing resources into promoting this exciting brand of basketball. Too frequently, sports organizations take the staunch traditionalist view that rule changes or variations of a game are somehow unsavory or tarnish its legacy (I’m looking at you, Major League Baseball). This perspective fails to recognize that, first and foremost, sports exist to provide entertainment and fun.
During the United States’ 3x3 game against France, the NBC color commentator compared the 5x5 game to a drama that slowly builds to its climax (i.e., the fourth quarter) and 3x3 to an action film. It’s an apt analogy. Titanic and the action film Die Hard are both great movies, and now the Olympics offers the basketball equivalent of both. The exposure of different yet equally compelling basketball products to a global audience will only help grow the base of women’s basketball fans.
Mike Petersen Resigns
The Atlanta Dream announced Saturday that head coach Mike Petersen has stepped down, citing health reasons. Petersen will transition into a front-office role with the Dream, and assistant coach Darius Taylor will take over as the team’s second interim coach this season.
"For health reasons that the grind of the WNBA season will not allow me to adequately address, I have decided to step down from my coaching duties with the Dream," Petersen said. "I want to thank the Atlanta Dream players, staff and ownership for the opportunity to be part of an amazing organization."
This represents the latest chapter in a transformational phase for the Dream organization. In under six months, the Atlanta Dream have changed their ownership group, general manager (firing of Chris Sienko following April’s draft), head coach (Nicki Collen’s departure for the Baylor head coaching role), and interim head coach. There’s also the recent indefinite suspension of 2020 Rookie of the Year Runner-Up Chennedy Carter for conduct detrimental to the team, a saga covered in depth by The Next’s Spencer Nusbaum.
Despite a promising 4-2 start, the Dream dropped 11 of their next 13 games, finishing 6-13 under Petersen. In a coaching career that spans nearly 40 years, Petersen previously served as an assistant with Atlanta for three seasons and as head coach at North Texas, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, New Mexico State, and TCU.
Olympic schedule this week (All times Eastern)
Here is a listing of the 5x5 and 3x3 Olympic games scheduled for this week.
Her Hoop Stats content in case you missed it
Her Hoop Stats recently released the following podcast content:
Gabe Ibrahim and Christy Winters-Scott unveiled their first-half WNBA awards in the latest episode of Courtside.
On Unplugged, Megan Gauer and Calvin Wetzel discussed the WNBA All-Star Game and previewed Team USA’s chances to capture a seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal.
In the most recent installment of his series about betting on the WNBA, Calvin Wetzel analyzed betting trends from the first half of the season.
Team Canada is currently ranked fourth in the world and has an opportunity to capture the country’s first Olympic basketball medal in 85 years. Aneela Khan broke down their roster.
In WNBA Dissected, Richard Cohen offered his thoughts on FIBA’s refusal to allow Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams to play for Nigeria in the Tokyo Olympics. He also discussed Team USA’s weaknesses exposed in their loss to Team WNBA in the All-Star game.
Aneela Khan summarized ESPN’s most recent 30 for 30 film “Breakaway,” which chronicles the remarkable story of Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipient Maya Moore and her fight to exonerate a man wrongly convicted of burglary and assault.
Other recommended content
In the latest installment of her fascinating series on families in women’s basketball, Jenn Hatfield covered the careers of identical twins Kelly and Coco Miller for The Next.
For the BBC, Lebo Diseko chronicled Egyptian civil engineer Sara Gamal’s journey to becoming the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to referee basketball at the Olympics.
Sportsbooks heavily favor the United States to capture Olympic gold in the 5x5 basketball competition. The inaugural 3x3 competition? That’s a tad more interesting from a sports betting perspective. For The Athletic, Everett Cook previewed the medal contenders and offered his predictions.
For the Hartford Courant, Alexa Philippou explained why Team USA is one of the most dominant dynasties in sports.
Also for The Next, Em Adler broke down why the Seattle Storm have struggled in the fourth quarter this season.
For The Washington Post, Roman Stubbs covered how Mongolia’s exposure to 3x3 basketball has led to an explosion in the sport’s popularity in the central Asian country.
Buoyed by the returns of Allie Quigley (hamstring injury), Candace Parker (ankle injury), and Stefanie Dolson (3x3 qualifying tournament), the Chicago Sky clawed back to 0.500 after a seven-game losing streak. For the Chicago Sun-Times, Annie Constabile revealed four things we have learned about the Chicago Sky this season.
Women’s professional basketball trivia question of the week
Game 5 of the 2016 WNBA Finals featured one of the most exciting finishes in league history. In order from third-to-last shot to final shot, name the three players who knocked down the last three field goals of that thrilling contest. Hint: All three have won league MVP.