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Which NBA player has to perform best for the U.S. to win gold?

July 17, 2012
  • After leading the Miami Heat to the NBA championship earlier this summer, LeBron James looks to lead the U.S. men's basketball team to gold at the London Olympics.
After leading the Miami Heat to the NBA championship earlier this summer,… (Alex Brandon / Associated…)

Writers from around the  Tribune Co.  discuss the star-studded, but injury-laden U.S. men's basketball team as it heads into the London Olympics. Check back throughout the day for their responses and join the discussion by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Didn't Monday's exhibition against Brazil just about say it all?

The U.S. Olympic team scored 80 points in the 11-point victory; LeBron James scored 30 of them.

It's as if USA Basketball looked at the Heat's formula for winning the 2012 NBA championship -- short on big men, big on LeBron -- and said, go ahead, do it again.

This, of course, also is a trap, because if it does turn into all LeBron all the time, the paint will become packed, opponents will be more willing to fall back into zones against a U.S. roster that has yet to show an ability to consistently hit the 3-point shot.

Just as with the Heat this past postseason, James again will be counted on to play big, with plenty of time in the power rotation. One has to wonder whether that eventually will begin to take a toll.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh opted to take these summer months off to allow their bodies to recover. LeBron bypassed that option. Now he might pay for that decision.

Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel

Finally, center Tyson Chandler gets center stage.

Chandler is Team USA's only true big man, left to man the middle after Dwight Howard underwent back surgery. Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin also are home with injuries.

The Americans have enough star power in Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. But they are at a size disadvantage against the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka of Spain and Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter of Brazil.   

Kobe said Team USA was so concerned in an exhibition scare against Brazil --- who out-rebounded the Americans, 38-30 --- that their defense gave up perimeter shots. Chandler will need to remind everyone why he won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award last season.   

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

It's LeBron James' NBA world now and everybody else is just living with it. Kobe Bryant remains the game's ubercompetitor. And Tyson Chandler will have to play well and avoid foul trouble as Team USA's lone legitimate interior defensive presence.

But if Team USA wants to defend its gold medal secured at the Beijing Olympics, James will have to continue to play at the astonishingly high level he did in leading the Miami Heat to his first NBA championship. This is no gold medal lock for Team USA, which has been beset by a slew of injuries. The stars will be leaned on to play heavy minutes. And James will have to display the versatility that he displayed during these playoffs, initiating offense, guarding several positions, hitting big shots.

James finally buried the label that he can't close in winning an NBA title. He also already has a gold medal. Notice a trend here? Winning makes stars want to win more. James knows the way, and it's his turn to lead.

 ALSO:

U.S. men get sloppy victory over Brazil

Lindsay Whalen leads U.S. women past Brazil

The Obamas on Kiss Cam at Team USA exhibition [Video]

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