Too much star power? Team USA not concerned heading into Games
CHICAGO -- The U.S men's Olympic basketball roster appears to have all the bases covered: unstoppable scorers (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony); dynamic point guards (Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Deron Williams); talented big men (Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer); a versatile wing stopper (Tayshaun Prince); and a zone-busting shooter (Michael Redd).
But does it have enough "role players"?
That might be the only real question of the roster that Jerry Colangelo, Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the USA Basketball committee has put together in an effort to get the United States back to its place atop the world throne.
For what it's worth, Wade offers an affirmative as emphatic as one of his patented dunks.
"Just watch us play," the Heat guard said. "The main thing is just because we've got guys who are known name-wise doesn't mean they can't play a role."
Four years ago, after the last Team USA Olympic disappointment, the powers-that-be who run the sport in the United States promised changes. No more All-Star teams, they declared. More role players, they vowed.
Based on the roster announced Monday, it might seem as if that idea had gone up in a cloud of smoke at Nike marketing headquarters. Ten of the 12 players selected have been NBA All-Stars. The two remaining players, Prince and Williams, easily could have been this past season.
Where, one might ask, are the true role players? Where are the players who are "glue" guys for their NBA teams? Where are the guys who don't just talk about doing the dirty work but actually have the grease under their fingernails to prove it?
In other words, where are the guys like Shane Battier, Tyson Chandler, Kirk Hinrich and Bruce Bowen (all of whom are part of the senior national team program)?
"They were part of our considerations," said Colangelo, USA Basketball's managing director. "Battier is hurt. Chandler was right on the cusp.
"[But] we definitely have enough [role players]. If you look at our team, Prince is a role player. Redd is a role player for sure. Boozer. They all have a function. Each of them. There could have been three or four [bigger-name] All-Stars in place of those people, but we chose these guys for a reason."
Colangelo said he personally interviewed every candidate over the past three years to gauge his commitment. He said he is "100 percent" satisfied with the players chosen.
"We're not going to have any issues with this team," he declared.
"It's not about marketing or anything like that," Krzyzewski added of the team he will coach in Beijing. "It's about representing your country. These guys get it. Believe me, I would say it if they didn't. Every second I've been with them has been good."
Wade, one of a handful of members of the 2008 squad who also played on the '04 Olympic team that finished third, said he has no doubt that the stars will check their egos at the door.
He also pointed out that last year, a U.S. team featuring Anthony, Bryant and James romped through the FIBA Americas tournament to clinch a berth in Beijing. Wade missed that event with an injury, but he spent time with the squad during practice.
"Back in '04, things weren't together like they should be," he said. "But we showed last year [going 10-0 in the FIBA tournament] that we can do it, that a Kobe and a LeBron can be on same team and do great things together.
"It's about the USA basketball team. Everybody has bought into it. ... I think everybody, when they get to watch us play, will get that doubt out of their mind. This isn't 2004. This is 2008, and we have a different mind-set."
So there you have it, NBA fans. When the Americans begin play in China in August, don't be surprised to see Kobe waving a towel on the bench, LeBron diving on the floor for loose balls and 'Melo hauling down as many defensive rebounds as rim-rocking dunks.
As long as they all are truly willing to live up to that promise, they should bring home the gold.