Posted: Monday August 7, 2006 2:54PM; Updated: Monday August 7, 2006 3:18PM
They were also a matchup problem for the Olympics in general. The world was tired of the U.S. men winning all the time, and with the NBA relentlessly flogging its overseas explosion, the celebrity of these players worked against them. There was no longer awe at their presence. Calls went again them, and Tim Duncan summed up the way most of them felt on their way out when he famously pronounced, "FIBA sucks."
This team could start a lineup with James, Anthony and Wade being interchangeable -- like Coach K's version of Total Football. "That's what we have," LeBron said following the 114-69 demolition of Puerto Rico on Thursday night. "We have a lot of guys that can come in and create matchup problems. That's what we bring. Guys can all get out there and guard multiple guys ... point guards all the way to centers."
Team USA's success is predicated upon the players all buying in to what Coach K is selling: Chevys and American Express cards. Actually, he's preaching defense and buying into the team concept, talking at length about how some players might not get off the bench for games at a time. Translation: This isn't about egos, this is about winning. Both publicly and privately, Team USA's players like Coach K. They respect his basketball accomplishments. Don't think his commercial success has escaped their notice, either.
Watching Team USA scrimmage against Puerto Rico on Tuesday night, its defensive intensity was palpable -- LeBron was yelling "Ball! Ball!" whenever he was defending the ball, and the only times Coach K stood and applauded were after one of his players took a charge.
This team has the talent and ability to win the World Championships this summer in Japan. But most importantly, they don't just want to play -- they want to win. And I think they will.
Following the game in Vegas, as the members of Team USA tried to stop smiling, Wade put a bow on the whole thing. "It wasn't one guy trying to do too much," said Wade. "Everyone wanted to see everyone get better. It was a great start."