Bears

James, Durant, Bryant headline stacked U.S. Olympic roster

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James, Durant, Bryant headline stacked U.S. Olympic roster

The U.S. Olympic basketball team announced its final roster yesterday, as it makes its final preparations leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Newly crowned NBA champion LeBron James leads a roster jam-packed with NBA superstars attempting to repeat their 2008 gold medal trip to Beijing.
Along with James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams make up the five returners from the 2008 team that coasted to the gold medal game before pulling away from Spain, 118-107, in the championship.
But seven new faces have surfaced this time around, both in an effort to bring more youth and athleticism to the team and to fill spots due to injuries to key 2008 participants.
Derrick Rose (ACL), Dwight Howard (back), Dwyane Wade (knee) and Chris Bosh (abdomen) all likely would have been selected to the team, but will miss the Games to rehabilitate their respective injuries.
Along with the five stars from the 2008 team, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love were non-surprise additions to the roster. Durant has established himself as one the best scorers in the world, Westbrook will help pace a run-n'-gun U.S. offense, Love has excellent 3-point range and can rebound and Chandler fills a major void in the middle left by Howard's absence.
But the other three injuries, to Rose, Wade and Bosh, left openings on the roster. Before the final roster was announced yesterday, the finalists for those three spots had been narrowed to: Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, James Harden and rookie Anthony Davis.
Iguodala, Harden and Griffin wound up receiving the final three spots, with Iguodala over Gay perhaps the biggest surprise. However, with a roster that includes eight of the top 10 scorers in the NBA last season, Iguodala's superior length and defensive ability earned him a spot. Harden will be an offensive spark off the bench and Griffin, at 6-foot-10, filled a need inside.
The one glaring hole on the United States' roster is at the center position. Chandler, the lone 'five' on the team, is the only true shot blocker. And while Love, James and Griffin are all capable of playing power forward, it's unclear how the team will defend Spain -- a team with Marc Gasol, Paul Gasol and Serge Ibaka -- should they meet again in the gold medal game. Had Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in June's NBA Draft, not sprained his ankle in a practice with the Hornets, he may have made the roster over Griffin or Iguodala.
But where the team lacks for size, it more than makes up in scoring, speed and, simply put, talent.
Nine players averaged 19.8 points per game or more last season in the NBA, ten were NBA All-Stars and six have appeared at least once in the NBA Finals. They have the reigning NBA MVP (James) and Defensive Player of the Year (Chandler), four of the five 2012 All-NBA First Team members (the injured Howard was the fifth) and a coaching legend with plenty of international experience in Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.
With a potential starting lineup of Paul, Bryant, Durant, James and Love, it's tough to see another country being able to run with the U.S. for four quarters. As it was in 2008, it's their gold medal to lose.
Their biggest test again will be Spain, a talented team featuring NBA talent Marc and Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Serge Ibaka and Rudy Fernandez. TheSpaniards are also dealing with a key injury, as point guard Ricky Rubio tore his ACL in March and will not be available for the Games.
The French national team, which includes NBA players Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Kevin Seraphin and Ronny Turiaf, could be another challenge for the Americans. Bulls center Joakim Noah will sit out the Games to rest and rehab his sprained ankle.
But for as much pressure as the team had in 2008, following a 2004 Olympics where they failed to make the gold medal game, the U.S. may have just as much pressure on them to repeat as champions, given the talent level of the 2012 team.

Under Center Podcast: What will we learn about the Bears against the Patriots?

Under Center Podcast: What will we learn about the Bears against the Patriots?

On this week's Under Center podcast, JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin look at how Bill Belichick and New England will attack Matt Nagy and the Bears on Sunday, and if Mitch Trubisky can get to the point where he can reliably lead a late-game scoring drive like Tom Brady is so good at doing.

You can listen to the whole thing here, or in the embedded player below: 

 

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.