Team USA's 12 Man Roster is Officially AnnouncedInjuries and the aging process prevented USA Basketball from completely putting the 2008 band back together but the 2012 version of Team USA that will compete in the London Olympics includes a strong mixture of five Olympic veterans and five FIBA World Championship veterans plus two young talents who will provide athleticism and scoring punch. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams played on the 2008 gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team, while Kevin Durant, Tyson Chandler, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Love won gold medals for Team USA during the 2010 FIBA World Championship. Blake Griffin and James Harden are the newcomers who will provide firepower off of the bench.
James and Anthony will join David Robinson (1988, 1992, 1996) as the only men to play three times for Team USA in the Olympics. Bryant, Paul and Williams will add their names to the somewhat longer but still quite distinguished list of two-time U.S. Olympic basketball players: Charles Barkley (1992, 1996), Carlos Boozer (2004, 2008), Patrick Ewing (1984, 1992), Burdette Haldorson (1956, 1960), William Hougland (1952, 1956), Michael Jordan (1984, 1992), Jason Kidd (2000, 2008) Robert Kurland (1948, 1952), Karl Malone (1992, 1996), Chris Mullin (1984, 1992), Gary Payton (1996, 2000), Scottie Pippen (1992, 1996), Mitch Richmond (1988, 1996) and John Stockton (1992, 1996).
The 39 year old Kidd, who owns a 46-0 record as a member of two Olympic gold medalists and three FIBA Americas Championship squads (1999, 2003, 2007), previously announced his retirement from international play (and likely would not have been selected for this year's roster in any case); injuries prevented 2008 Olympians Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and 2010 FIBA World Championship veteran Derrick Rose from participating this time.
It will be very interesting to see how Coach Mike Krzyzewski distributes starting honors and--more importantly--minutes. Durant, the three-time reigning NBA scoring champion and 2010 FIBA World Championship MVP, may not even start for this team; James, Bryant and Paul are almost certainly locks to start, Chandler is the only true center on the roster and Anthony--despite his poor shooting and inconsistent play--started all eight games for the 2008 squad (though he often ended up on the bench during crunch time). Chandler played so poorly in the 2010 FIBA World Championship that he not only failed to hold on to the starting center job but he eventually fell out of the rotation completely, averaging just 8.6 mpg during the event, so perhaps that will influence Coach Krzyzewski to go "small" from the outset with James at center, Anthony at power forward, Durant at small forward and Bryant and Paul in the backcourt. It is certainly possible that Coach Krzyzewski will experiment a bit with his starting lineup and his overall rotation during Team USA's exhibition games/pre-Olympic tour. Love indicated that Coach Krzyzewski plans to use him almost exclusively at center.
FIBA basketball has different rules, a different playing/officiating style and a different rhythm from NBA basketball, so some players who look great in NBA play may be plagued by foul trouble and/or just generally seem out of sorts during FIBA competition. Love has emerged as a great NBA player but he was a non-factor--other than in garbage time--during the 2010 FIBA World Championship and Griffin is a good candidate to lead this squad in fouls per minute due to his aggressive style combined with FIBA's eccentric officiating. Harden seemed to lose his game and his confidence during the 2012 NBA Finals, so it will be interesting to see if the changes of venue and rules bring him back to life or if he stays in his slump.
Team USA will obviously rely on quickness and athleticism and if Team USA has the proper "attention to detail" (as Bryant put it shortly after the announcement of the final roster) then they should be able to overwhelm most of the teams that they will face; Team USA's main weakness--a lack of size, specifically a dearth of true back to the basket centers--could be exploited by teams that do not turn the ball over, keep the pace of the game slow and pound the ball inside to skilled big men.
Despite what countless "experts" will proclaim, the deciding factor for Team USA will not be lack of size or how well Team USA shoots from behind the arc; Team USA has several players who play and rebound "bigger" than their size and Team USA should be able to score so well in transition that three point shooting will not be a huge part of their offensive repertoire. The key for Team USA to win in FIBA events is to play suffocating defense and shut down the opposing team's three point shooters without getting broken down for layups in the screen/roll game. In the 2008 Olympics, Team USA held opposing teams to .403 field goal shooting and .299 three point field goal shooting. Those are the two most important statistical categories to monitor as Team USA chases gold in London.
posted by David Friedman @ 11:26 PM