LONDON — With the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics still hours away and the torch relay making its way through the streets of this grand old city, there is still time for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team to take one last breath before the competition begins Sunday against France.
They ran through their pre-Olympic exhibition schedule like you might expect the loaded, defending gold medalists would — the 5-0 record and 27-point average margin of victory have to impress even the biggest skeptics.
You can take whatever side you want in the Dream Team vs. This Team debate, and Naismith knows everyone who cares at all about the game has weighed in at one time or another in the past few weeks. The fact remains that this is easily the strongest international contingent of talent a U.S. Olympic team will have to face.
There are six other current or former NBA All-Stars in the competition here — Spain boasts two (Pau and Marc Gasol), with Argentina (Manu Ginobili), France (Tony Parker) and Russia (Andrei Kirilenko) each boasting one of their own.
Twenty years ago, the Dream Team faced just five active NBA players on their way to gold (eight other players in that competition had played or would go on to play in the NBA).
The debate will have to wait anyway, since the current team has to first claim a gold of their own. And they’ll be tested by teams like Spain, Argentina, Russia and Brazil, all of which possess more frontcourt size than the U.S. Team has.
No team, though, can go down the bench and find NBA All-Stars nine-deep; Tyson Chandler is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, James Harden is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and the 12th man, Anthony Davis, was the No. 1 overall pick in last month’s Draft.
The other decided advantage this current team has over its predecessors is a chemistry and cohesion born out of USA Basketball’s structure since Jerry Colangelo took over as managing director of the program and Mike Krzyzewski assumed the coaching mantle after a dismal showing in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.