The USA Basketball team roster lacks two noticeably missing NBA champions. LeBron James and Stephen Curry both declined to play in the tournament. Curry is likely absent to save face after the embarrassing NBA Finals series loss. James is gone, perhaps, to relish and enjoy the championship underdog victory as long as he can before the next NBA season starts.
Other high profile players skipping the games include James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, and Anthony Davis. Fortunately, not all of the players from the NBA’s current two top teams are missing.
From the Warriors, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, and Klay Thompson will all be present. From the Cavs, decisive playmaker Kyrie Irving will run the floor as the Cavs’ sole representative. The London Olympics hosted an incredible combination of NBA talent that would make the original Dream Team proud. The lineup this time suffers slightly without Curry and James, but still contains a cast probably strong enough to defend the USA Basketball team’s undefeated record from the last two Olympics.
Other players that will represent the nation during the Rio Olympics include Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who had excellent play in the London games, Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry from the Raptors, Thunder forward Kevin Durant (also a member of the previous team), Paul George of the Pacers, and Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski is returning for his third Olympics in a row, which is good, because he knows how to win on a global stage.
As Fox Sports reports, despite the decent roster, there is less guidance on the court among the players in terms of experience and leadership. The two previous times, the U.S. had both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. It is not yet known if Durant or Anthony can summon that same presence.
Team USA can’t just lie back and expect automatic wins in Rio, unless they want to meet the same disaster of that 2004 bronze medal performance. The USA stays on top of the world in basketball because they work hard and play tirelessly. Other teams just haven’t been able to top them as far as expenditure of energy and precise play.
The world has certainly shown considerable improvement in the international basketball tournaments that have passed since the Dream Team first stepped on the court. A constant flow of international talent streams into the NBA at an increasing rate. But, the USA at its best is about four times better than its nearest international competitor. In recent years, that has mostly been Spain.
As USA Today reports, this year’s roster is far from the type of team that Coach K and Jerry Colangelo had to work with in the last Olympics, but a little closer to the teams in the FIBA Basketball World Cup tournaments of 2010 and 2014. It seems there is just enough talent to still maintain the same impact. It also gives a chance for a lot of these players who have never been in the Olympics to have the experience of playing in one. At the very least, it is a good warm up for the next Olympics, where the USA Basketball team will need to show it can grow and survive without a possible return of LeBron James and other big stars.
Kyrie Irving will be in a unique position as the only player from the 2016 NBA championship team. He will get a great chance to show if he can run plays and control the flow of the tournament without LeBron James as the main attraction. Klay Thompson will have to show what he can do without his strong supporting cast, and this may be just the venue for Draymond Green to unleash all that offensive talent he lets out in incredible spurts when Steph Curry has an off day.
The USA Basketball team begins play in the Rio summer Olympics on August 6, in a game against China.
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