LAS VEGAS — Can this team be better than 2008?
The question will be asked a thousand times more between now and July 29 and likely a thousand time more after the U.S. team kicks off their quest for gold at the London Olympics.
So the players, coaches, support staff, family members and assorted friends and associated affiliated with USA Basketball should be prepared for the non-stop comparisons to the team that won gold in Beijing.
With six first-time Olympians on this roster, that sort of talk might seem like a bit much before anyone has ever seen this particular group in any real live (and not in a “friendly”) competition. That won’t stop the better than ’08 talk, though, and U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski knows as much.
Yet even with the injury absences to key players from that 2008 team — Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh — no one in this camp is backing away from sky-high expectations.
“I think, this team has the potential to be that (better), if we were to use our versatility,” Krzyzewski said. “This is a more versatile team than 2008, but does that translate into being better? LeBron [James] is a better player right now. He was a was real good then, but he’s a great player right now. Carmelo [Anthony] is a better player. Chris [Paul] and Deron [Williams] are better players. I think Kobe [Bryant] maintains his level of who he is. Although we don’t have the center, that team didn’t have [Kevin] Durant and [Russell] Westbrook. So it’s a different team and we’ll see if it becomes better. But it can be, it could be.”
Anthony made it clear that the first and only mission for this team is to bring home the gold medal. But if there are comparisons to be made, so be it.
“We want to be [better than 2008],” he said. “That’s our goal. We want to go over there and win every game. We were successful in 2008 it was doing what we do. and we want to carry that on in London and bring that gold home.”
The trade offs between 2008 and 2012 are as close to equal as you can get, the most dominant big man in basketball in Howard for the most dominant scorer in the game (Durant). The man known formerly known as “Flash” in Wade for the player who embodies the moniker more than anyone these days in Westbrook.
And while Kevin Love and Blake Griffin might not be the fit that Chris Bosh was on the 2008 team, their combined talents dwarf anything a wounded Bosh could have given them in London.
“You don’t have Bosh, Dwight and Dwyane, those three in particular,” Krzyzewski said. “But the people who come in there are Westbrook, who is going to be there his entire career, Durant is unbelievable and then you have young bigs in Love and Blake Griffin who, I’m not saying they are Dwight Howard or Chris Bosh, but they’re very good players.”