The U.S. men’s national basketball team will look to defend it’s gold title as it gears up to take the court at this summer’s Olympics in London.
The team, spearheaded by coach Mike Krzyzewski, has built up tremendous momentum coming off gold-medal performances at both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and, more recently, the 2010 FIBA World Championships.
Krzyzewski, who will be coaching his third Olympic team, stated that this is “the most talented of the three teams that I’ve had the opportunity to coach.” According to him, this team has more depth and combined talent than any of the previous ones.
Looking at the current 20-man roster (now down to 19 due to the unfortunate injury to veteran Chauncey Billups ) announced last month, it’s hard to find a weak link. The squad is ready to burst at the seams with talent and, just as importantly, is well seasoned in international play. The players combined have 500+ games of international experience, with Carmelo Anthony leading the way with 59. And of the 20 finalists, 18 have earned gold medals in either the Olympics or the FIBA Championships.
While the preliminary roster has yet to be narrowed down to the final 12, the available player pool is stacked with the best talent from around the NBA. However, the solution isn’t as simple as selecting the 12 best players. Rather, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo faces the challenge of selecting players that will compliment one another to create the most efficient team possible, by the time the finalized roster is submitted on June 18th. It will take a collaborative effort from Colangelo and Coach K to consider possible match-ups against talented teams such as Spain and Argentina, and put together a team accordingly.
Team USA is comprised of a combination of some familiar faces and an assortment of upcoming, young talent. Along with the expected names such as LeBron James , Dwyane Wade , Dwight Howard and Chris Paul , the roster features a younger generation of stars that have yet to compete on the international level – players like Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge .
Griffin, who sat out of the ’10 FIBA tournament due to injury, along with Aldridge may not possess the experience, but their talent will be greatly utilized if the two are in fact selected to the final team. More importantly, the commitment these young players have made to the national team will benefit future Olympic squads.
A name that was left of the list of players is Jason Kidd, a two-time gold-medalist with a perfect record of 56-0 in Olympic play.
Kidd, who will be 39 years old in March, has been replaced by younger, more athletic guards such as Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. Though Kidd will not take the court as a player, he has expressed strong interest in joining the team as an advisor or assistant coach.
Colangelo welcomed the idea, stating, “We would love to have him involved as much as he’s capable of being involved.”
A player that will be in London come July is Kobe Bryant. “The Black Mamba,” who was on the ’08 Beijing team, but sat out the FIBA Championships due to injuries, is eager to represent Team USA in London.
“I’m definitely going to play. I’m looking forward to it, if anything else just not to let Pau (Gasol) win a gold medal (laughs). I’m not letting Pau get a free run at getting a gold medal,” said Bryant.
As the oldest player on the team at 33, Bryant will be looked upon to play more of a leadership role. Similar to ’08, when he was the third leading scorer behind Wade and James respectively, Bryant will have to allow the immense talent around him to do the heavy lifting. Make no mistake, however, Bryant can, and will, step up and score when needed.
The U.S. is clearly the favorites going into the ’12 Games. Of the 12-team Olympic pool, only Spain, led by fellow NBA stars Pau Gasol and Ricky Rubio , has a realistic shot at tripping up Team USA – but even that is unlikely. With an elite roster, Team USA will look to continue its domination on the international basketball scene.
Preliminary play at the ’12 Olympics will tip off July 29.
Did you know?
-No player from the U.S. team has ever finished the competition as the top scorer.
-The U.S. men have collected a medal in all 16 Olympics in which they have competed, including 13 gold, one silver and two bronze.
-NBA players didn’t begin representing the United States in the Olympics until 1992.
-Dwyane Wade led the team in scoring with 16.0 ppg at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
-The Americans own an impressive 122-5 overall win-loss record (.961 winning percentage) in Olympic action.
Source: USA Basketball
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