LAS VEGASUntil tomorrow nights exhibition game against the Dominican Republic, no one can say for sure how theyll fare. But even observing the breathtaking collection of talent do the most mundane basketball drills, Team USA has the look of a special even by recent USA Basketball standards group.
Now, there are holes: Dwight Howards absence, due to season-ending back surgery means Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler is the teams only true center and injuries to the likes of Derrick Rose, Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and the Miami Heat duo of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh further thinned the pool.
However, with the versatility of the players of the available talent only Chandler and diminutive floor general Chris Paul, the likely starting point guard, can only play just one position the perceived size advantage shouldnt be an issue.
Can I introduce you to Tyson Chandler? Hes a true center, quipped Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski at the outset of Wednesdays practice. The only true center we lost was Dwight Howard, whos a big loss. Bosh played both positions and in 2010, Tyson was coming off injury and he was our only guy. Weve played this way in the last two major championships and were obviously going to have to do that again.
Coach K, a Chicago native and the longtime Duke University head coach, wouldnt reveal his starters for Thursday nights exhibition game against the Dominican Republic, coached by the University of Kentuckys John Calipari We dont know the starting lineup and it doesnt make any difference who starts, he insisted but he certainly doesnt lack for options.
With the likes of league MVP LeBron James, three-time reigning scoring champ Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony at the forward position supplemented by power forwards Kevin Love, a dominant rebounder with three-point range, and freak athlete Blake Griffin, one of the teams final additions Team USA will have the ability to showcase several different looks.
However, while one cant put the cart before the horse, Spain, featuring the Gasol brothers 7-footers Pau of the Lakers and Marc of the Grizzlies and league-leading shot-blocker Serge Ibaka of the Thunder, loom in the distance as a potential roadblock to another gold medal.
In Krzyzewskis view, though, Team USAs chemistry aside from Griffin and yet another Oklahoma City player, James Harden, the NBAs Sixth Man of the Year from several of the squads members playing together in either 2010 or the 2008 Olympics, should prevail.
Both of those competitions the Olympics and World Championships are huge and having the experience of not only playing internationally, but winningeach is a huge accomplishment. When you bring guys together who have accomplished, youve got a better chance, said the coach.
We havent watched Spain yet. Were trying to put together our team right now. Spains terrific. They have veterans. We had an unbelievable game against them in 08 and theyre only older and better, so well study them along the way.