Print and Go Back Olympics [Print without images]

Saturday, July 28, 2012
Despite injury, all eyes will be on Parker

By Marc Stein

LONDON -- As genuinely scared as Tony Parker and many friends were about his wrong-place, wrong-time misfortune in a New York nightclub and the resulting damage it did to his left eye, Parker's closest pals on Team USA don't expect a diminished No. 9 when the Americans open Olympic play Sunday against France.

"Now he's just worried about how he looks in his goggles," Team USA guard Deron Williams joked.

Maybe Parker isn't that nonchalant about the situation, as his comments on the subject this week suggest, but what Williams was trying to convey is that he and teammate Chris Paul -- Parker's best buddies among the Yanks -- expect France's driving force to be operating at something resembling full strength when the teams meet in their Group A opener at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Both Kobe Bryant and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski noted before Saturday's practice that France, with Parker and Boris Diaw as its primary playmakers and combo guard Nando de Colo expected to join the Spurs next season, actually runs some of San Antonio's offensive sets to add to Parker's comfort level.

"They're going to try to slow the tempo down as much as possible," Bryant said of a French squad that despite the injury absence of Joakim Noah fields plenty of recognizable names beyond Parker and Diaw, with Nicolas Batum, Ronny Turiaf and Kevin Seraphin on the roster.

"We're just going to try to swarm [Parker]. Surround him. Keep bodies in front of him at all times."

Paul told the story Saturday about how Parker, when CP3 asked him for one of his jerseys, handed over a France model instead of something from the San Antonio collection because that's how much playing for his country means to him. Williams added that daunting as it is for any point guard to face the waves of smothering perimeter defenders at Krzyzewski's disposal, Parker, who finished fifth in 2011-12 MVP balloting, will actually relish the occasion.

"Knowing Tony like I do," Williams said, "I'm sure he takes it as a challenge."

Krzyzewski, not surprisingly, was even more cautious on the eve of the tournament's opening day, talking about how the "overall 12 teams are more talented" and "more seasoned" compared to what the Redeem Team faced in 2008 in Beijing.

"There’s just more teams that feel that they have a chance to win the gold medal -- and medal -- than they did in ’08," Coach K said. He likewise predicts that things will be even tougher in 2016 in Brazil because "the world keeps getting better."

Yet Krzyzewski, his vision unobstructed by the type of unwieldy eyewear Parker will be wearing, likes what he sees with his squad after nearly 25 days together for practices and five exhibition games in three countries.

"We've traveled a lot to get here," Krzyzewski said, "and the time together has helped us."

Said star forward LeBron James, referring to the Spaniards (namely Jose Calderon and the Gasol brothers) who made the claim that they held back somewhat in the teams' exhibition game in Barcelona earlier in the week: "We [also] haven't shown all our cards yet. We have so many options and so many things we can go to with our team."