Still the favorite
The biggest problem for the U.S. is Howard's back injury, because it leaves the Americans with just one 7-footer, the Knicks' Tyson Chandler. Chandler is a superb defender, but he's not as good as Howard. And big men Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol play for Spain, a perennial contender for Olympic gold.
Going to be tough task
This is a tricky debate because the U.S. is supposed to win despite the circumstances. But injuries and the lockout-shortened season could have a strong effect on Team USA's performance. After a grinding schedule and playoffs, many of the players will be thinking nothing but vacation.
Instead, they must now muster enough strength to represent the country. It's unrealistic to think the players are going to be fresh enough during the Olympics. On top of that, injuries to players such as Derrick Rose will only thin the roster.
They usually place an asterisk next to any team that wins an NBA title during a lockout season. Maybe they should add that to the 2012 Olympic team because winning gold in London is going to be a tough task.
U.S. has enough firepower
Granted, the compressed NBA season has claimed its share of casualties. And, sure, the gap between U.S. basketball and the rest of the world has closed considerably.
However, as long as names like Kobe and LeBron and D-Wade don the red, white and blue, Team USA has plenty of firepower to win gold in London.
Spain is formidable. So is France. An aging Argentinian team has the band together for one final run. But the commitment and accountability Coach K and Jerry Colangelo have extracted from multimillion-dollar athletes has been impressive.