Matthew Kitchen, NBC Olympics
According to coach Mike Krzyzewski it’s not the size that matters, but how you use it that truly counts.
The team announced their final Olympics roster Saturday afternoon from their training camp in Vegas, and the list brought few surprises and even less height. Only three players stand 6-10 and taller, which means a number of guys will be playing out of position in London, including squad leader LeBron James, who might see time at all five spots.
“We lost a lot of big guys, which hurt,” Coach K said at practice Friday. “But we have a lot of athleticism and we have to figure out how to use that to our best advantage.”
Despite Anthony Davis’ youth, lack of experience, and ankle injury, we (foolishly) thought Chris Bosh pulling out of the Games to rehab opened up a spot for the No. 1 pick’s defense and versatility, but the rookie is just too unproven among the rest of the available talent. He’ll likely be back for 2016, even if the team transitions to 23-and-under.
Instead the squad will play small, with Tyson Chandler as the only true center on the team. He’ll split time with Kevin Love, who can post up down low, shoot outside, and rebound everywhere. Blake Griffin fills the power spot and will spend his summer dunking to the delight of the monocled British crowd.
The surprise of the roster was James Harden, a late add to the list of finalists after injuries to decimated the original group. We had him as a long(ish) shot due streaky play and redundancies at his position, but Harden will provide the necessary spark off the bench and add some chemistry to a squad that already boasts his two very talented Oklahoma City teammates, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The other late add was Andre Iguodala, who found his way onto the team in the absence of Dwyane Wade. The Miami Heat star is heading for knee surgery, but Iggy will give the team a wing defender at guard who is versatile, athletic, and can match up with any team’s best player.
The rest of the roster is filled with the best from Beijing, including Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams. At first glance the lack of size scares the hell out of us, especially if the USA faces a loaded Spanish team that won silver in 2008 and brings back brothers Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol, as well as Serge Ibaka and four other players with NBA experience.
Of course, then you realize how stacked Team USA really is: six rings, six scoring titles, four MVPs, the reigning Sixth Man and Defensive Player of the Year…. and this is what was left when the dust settled on the season. Just imagine if they were at full strength.
The real story lines of summer will exist within this team. Who will take the leadership roles? Who will step up when it matters? Who will cry on the podium, will Harden ever shave his beard, and will any of these guys be back for Rio? Stay tuned, it’s about to get exciting.
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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.