Not to be outdone by the NFL, Team USA opened their “training camp
” as well as they prepare for the upcoming 2008 Olympic games (and their Friday exhibition match-up with Canada). In what should be no surprise, Kobe, LeBron and company are preparing like anything less than the gold medal will be a failure, and rightfully so.
Not that I’m trying to evoke devote jingoism or anything like that, but when a team is constructed with these parts, leaving China without the gold shouldn’t even be an option. And that’s not a slight towards the other countries participating in the basketball portion of the Olympics — it’s just those other teams don’t have rosters full of player like Kobe, LeBron, Carmelo, Dwight and Dwyane.
While it’s true that if Team USA takes any of their opponents lightly, they could very well be on the short end of a Puerto Rico-like beatdown. However, I would not expect the leaders of the team — Kobe and LeBron (and Coach K to a lesser extent) — would allow the rest of their team to give such lackluster performances. Of course, if their teammates do play poorly, each is still capable of single-handedly carrying Team USA to victory.
Of course, before “Dream Team 2.0″ can worry about the medal rounds, they need to win the aforementioned Group B, which consists of teams like the Yao-led Chinese and the Nowitzki-led Germans. Lets not forget about Greece and Spain either, as both teams reside in the top ten of FIBA’s rankings (Team USA is ranked first).
One of the concerns facing Coach K and staff as the games get closer and closer is the health of Dwight Howard’s cracked sternum. According to the man-giant, there’s nothing to worry about but let’s see if that’s still the case after Howard battles with Germany’s Chris Kaman.
A couple of rebound-related elbows could change the “it’s fine” tune really quick.
Then the USA would only have Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer (although, I still argue he’s not a “big man”) to deal with the rest of the world’s bigs.
An injury to Tyson Chandler’s toe leaves his reserve status up in the air — as well as Team USA’s inside depth.
Obviously, protecting Howard’s chest is paramount for Team USA and their dreams of striking gold in China. There are a couple of other injuries to be aware of as well — mainly Kobe’s finger and Dwyane Wade’s turn as the wounded man. Considering the location of Kobe’s injury, one would think a slap across his hand — a common occurrence in a basketball game — could be troublesome.
As for Wade, has he even been completely healthy since Miami won the World Championship?
Potential injuries aside, the 2008 version of Team USA looks to be as talented and dynamic as any Olympic basketball team before it, including the original Dream Team. Now the key is to actually win the gold before these comparisons can continue.