The U.S. men's basketball team has shown plenty of talent and not enough hunger in the past. In the 2012 Olympics, Team USA might have the same work ethic that earned it a gold medal four years ago but without the same strong supporting cast that made up the Redeem Team.
Count Derrick Rose out of the Olympics because of a knee injury. List Dwight Howard as doubtful considering he just had back surgery. Forget about LaMarcus Aldridge, who recently had hip surgery. And if the Clippers weren't reminded enough already this year, Chauncey Billups won't be available either because of a torn Achilles' tendon.
But Nets guard Deron Williams, who'll likely land a roster spot, hardly seemed concerned.
"I think its going to be a talented team regardless," Williams said Wednesday at the E3 Expo, where he was promoting the video game NBA Baller Beats, which features him on the cover and will be released in September. "I think it could be a more talented team than the last go-around."
Team USA received a three-week extension from the U.S. Olympic Committee to submit its final roster on July 8, but it remains unclear how that will pan out.
It won't have the same kind of frontcourt depth the so-called Redeem Team enjoyed with Howard, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer. Howard will probably miss at least some time. Bosh missed most of the postseason because of an abdominal strain. Lakers center Andrew Bynum penciled himself out because he'd rather rest after somehow surviving the NBA's compacted schedule without suffering another injury.
Still, the U.S. men's team could benefit from an injection of youth, including Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and former Kentucky product Anthony Davis. They'll still have strong point-guard play in Chris Paul and Williams. And then, of course, there's one particular Laker who always gears up for high-stakes competition. You may have heard of Kobe Bryant.
"It's good to have to be on his team for once and not have to guard him and keep him from scoring 50 on you," Williams said. "He's a very intense guy. He's very passionate about the game. He's a winner. It's fun to see his work ethic up close and personal."
That's actually a huge reason why USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo and U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski believe the team won the gold medal against Spain and outscored opponents by an average of 22 points. Both touted Bryant as a model player willing to adapt to any role with the 2008 Beijing team. There, Bryant largely took ownership on defense, while still averaging 15 points on 60.8% shooting. Colangelo vividly recalled two months ago Bryant spending practices diving for loose balls while arriving early and staying late during weight-lifting and film sessions.
Should the U.S. team adopt the same mind-set, Williams believes the outcome will remain the same.
"We put our egos aside," Williams said. "There were no egos in the rooms. Everybody had one goal and that was to win a gold medal. I think we did a great job of that. We came in, worked hard and everybody wanted it really bad. If the same thing happens this year, we'll be fine."
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