USA Basketball loaded with talent heading into London

In the week during the USA men’s basketball team practice, Kobe Bryant was asked how does his 2012 Olympic team match up against the 1992 “Dream Team,” and he said they could beat them in a hypothetical game.

“It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out,” Bryant said.

He may be wrong, but after his team debuted against the Dominican Republic on Thursday, Bryant’s claim doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

Of course, the Dominican Republic is subpar compared to every country entered in the Olympic pool, but the Americans handled the game exceptionally with a 113-59 victory in Las Vegas. As expected, the team had a complete effort throughout the game. Contributions came from LeBron James all the way down the bench to Anthony Davis, who will fill in for Blake Griffin after the Clippers’ star withdrew from the team to have surgery on a torn meniscus suffered during practice.

The Americans started the game with cold shooting and even trailed the Dominicans for roughly the first five minutes of the first quarter, but a barrage of 3-pointers by Kevin Durant turned the game into a typical Team USA blowout. Andre Iguodala, who was one of three players who had to fight for a spot on the team last week, came off the bench and provided 18 points in 20 minutes. Coach Mike Krzyzewski praised Deron Williams’s six-point, 10-assist performance.

For players that were supposed to be playing limited roles, Davis (9) and former ASU alum James Harden (8) both scored more than Bryant (4).

Also addressed in the exhibition was USA’s lack of size, which did not seem to be a problem against Dominican Republic center and NBA All-Star Al Horford. The Americans rotated in Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, James and Davis at center and out-rebounded the Dominicans 42-32. Horford was limited to just seven points and six rebounds.

“That’s how we’ve been playing the whole time,” Krzyzewski said.

If this year’s squad is good now, it’s scary to imagine how much better USA would be if Griffin, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, LaMarcus Aldridge and Lamar Odom all didn’t withdraw. It’s still not the Dream Team — where 10 of that team’s 12 players are among the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players — but it may be a more complete team than the 2008 “Redeem Team.”

In the Beijing Olympics, there were multiple games where Carlos Boozer and Michael Redd saw limited playing time, whereas each of the USA’s current 12 players will likely have a valuable on-court role in some way.

In the London Olympics, which feature an even better wave of international competition, depth is needed more than ever for the Americans. Spain stands as the team most likely to upset USA, boasting a talented front-court which features Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and the newly-nationalized Serge Ibaka.

Argentina and France are also expected to challenge the Americans as well.

Even with injuries, USA Basketball looks outstanding and remains the clear favorite to win gold. Things always change after the first tune-up against a non-Olympic team, but the Americans have a lot of options to use in any situation.

 

Reach the reporter at jnacion@asu.edu