Dream Team up in the air for 2012 Olympics
Think of Mike Krzyzewski as headliner on the summer 2012
version of "The Bachelor," burdened with the responsibility of
dealing a dozen roses.
To make things tricky and dramatic, there's a reported pool of 19 heartbreakers
from which he must choose.
Coach K, celebrated maestro of the Duke Blue Devils and tactical chief for Team
USA, probably will fall in love with the disparate talents of each candidate.
That's why they're all included on the aforementioned preliminary American
roster for the Olympic tournament in London.
A few outstanding players won't be making the trip.
But before we weigh the pros and cons of some alleged bubble prospects, let's
review those players widely considered locks to suit up.
We'll begin with elder statesman Kobe Bryant, who was credited with setting the
competitive tempo for the Redeem Team of 2008. Even though he's shooting his
way through pain in a right wrist that might even prevent some of you from
texting or tweeting, Kobe probably wouldn't miss this party if required to
compete in a straightjacket.
If his Los Angeles Lakers don't muster a longer playoff run than last season,
Bryant will have plenty of rest (all relative) before the Recurring Dream Team
assembles for duty.
Our next stop for Team USA locks is Miami, where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade
are pretty much registered for London. Although they both did a fine job of
knocking down perimeter shots during the gold rush of '08, LeBron and D-Wade
currently are ignoring the 3-point tease, committing instead to a rim-wrecking
assault on the basket.
That seems to be working wonders for the Heat; we'll see if a potential lack of
familiarity with deep shooting is a factor against the zone-heavy defensive
schemes they'll probably see in London. Even if it does, they'll still play a
ton and play extremely well.
Speaking of long shots, their Miami teammate, Chris Bosh, could end up as one
to make this roster.
One superstar not in Beijing, but very much expected to join the squad this
summer is Oklahoma City Thunder three-man Kevin Durant. Durant, who led Team
USA to gold in the 2010 World Championships, might not be working with OKC
teammate Russell Westbrook this summer, though.
While critics continue to pick apart Westbrook's game, Coach K probably will be
looking more favorably at Chicago Bull Derrick Rose, LA Clipper Chris Paul and
Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets. Last July, I wrote that this team really
doesn't need three point guards and excluded Williams under such a premise.
But Coach K and the Team USA big thinkers went with three (Paul, Williams and
Jason Kidd) in '08 and could do so again.
Anyway, we have Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, KD, Rose and Paul as anticipated locks.
Safe additions to that list are New York Knick Carmelo Anthony (think Team USA
is set at small forward?) and almost-free-agent center Dwight Howard of the
Throw in a few guys from the rec center and — with reasonable shooting nights
against Spain and Argentina — you'll probably have another gold medal.
Fortunately, the Team USA ticket seems coveted by NBA stars. So, Coach K and
the guys must decide which of the unlocked 11 candidates can fill what appear
to be four open spots. It would be considerably less difficult if Team USA was
casting for an all-star game instead of building a team capable of dealing with
the clever, one-game strategies it may see in international play.
That means the acrobatics of Clipper power forward Blake Griffin could be swept
aside for the 3-point prowess and rebounding commitment of Kevin Love. While
both might be defensive liabilities for different reasons, they both are bonafide stars.
And they both could end up in London.
But recent reports indicate that Portland Trail Blazer four-man LaMarcus
Aldridge (my pick for the squad in that column posted last July) will be in the
running, giving Team USA another big body capable of doing work inside or at
mid-range against the zone.
Lamar Odom, another vet reportedly on the list, is adjusting to the Dallas
Mavericks' way of play, but his versatility has endeared him to a lot of
coaches through the years.
If Team USA authorities don't believe those four (or a combination of any two)
gives them enough size behind Howard, World Championship veteran Tyson Chandler could bring his NBA title chops to England.
With two small forwards — James and Durant — more than capable of holding down
both forward spots for long stretches (they both can run for days, so how do
you sit either for more than a minute or two?), a glut of card-carrying fours
is unnecessary. Right, some international teams (Spain) are huge along the
baseline, but an LBJ-KD pairing will cause more trouble for the opposition.
And having Kobe, Wade and Carmelo already stationed on the wings, roster spots
for tough, young defenders Eric Gordon and Andre Iguodala will be difficult to
Rose, CP3 and Williams should make it tough for Westbrook and Chauncey Billups
Depending on how confident Team USA will be with the perimeter superstars
working against a zone (remember, defensive pressure, forced turnovers and transition
worked wonders in '08), Billups and Gordon could have a shooter's chance. With
Ray Allen (an insurance-policy shooter I included on my list last summer) not
among the reported 19, Gordon's gun and defensive versatility (he can defend
point guards) could give him an in.
Contingency-based roster moves that might never need to be quantified will define
these decisions. Like having James, Durant and Anthony at small forward, it's a
nice luxury to have.
And if you added three more players to the pool, divided the roster in two,
allowed adequate preparation time and were permitted to enter both teams, this
could end up as your gold-medal game.