On Olympic basketball

The Baltimore Sun

So the question is this: Can this Team USA beat Argentina? Or Puerto Rico? Or Lithuania?

All spanked the United States in men's basketball at the 2004 Olympics in Athens (the U.S. did defeat Lithuania for the bronze medal).

Four years later, the U.S. team has the NBA's two biggest names, the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, but the supporting cast, though talented, raises questions.

After Bryant and James, Team USA, announced yesterday, features Denver's Carmelo Anthony, Orlando's Dwight Howard and Dallas' Jason Kidd, a veteran of international competition.

Miami's Dwyane Wade is coming back from his knee injury and is supposed to be 100 percent. Assuming that's so, he's the first guy off the bench.

On the point guard end of this are two of the NBA's rising stars, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. You might think that Paul would have been the starter, but, although his shoulders were figuratively broad enough to carry the New Orleans Hornets this year, he might not be literally big and strong enough to handle the physical guards he'll see in international play.

The rest of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's roster features forwards Tayshaun Prince, Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh, and guard Michael Redd.

So you might wonder, as did the little old lady in the hamburger commercial: Where's the beef?

Well, there's a little.

Boozer, at 266 pounds, can definitely bang and has international experience as a member of the 2004 bronze-medal team. Bosh comes in at 6 feet 10, 230 pounds and has been compared to Boston's Kevin Garnett.

But even in the starting lineup, as good a player as Howard is and can be, missing on this roster is the dominant big man like David Robinson or Patrick Ewing, the centers on the original Dream Team. Nor does this 2008 squad have a one-two punch like Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal, as was the case in 1996. And the American gold-medal team in 2000 had Alonzo Mourning and Garnett.

So, in Beijing it will be in the hands of the shooters and the slashers, the multi-threat Kobe and LeBron.

It remains to be seen whether that's enough.


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