|ESPN.com: Dick Vitale||[Print without images]|
The USA team assembled by Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski lacks great size but possesses dynamite quickness. The superb duo of Bulls guard Derrick Rose and the versatility of Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant will be vital to any chance of winning the gold at the FIBA World Championships in Turkey.
Over the years, the USA has not been successful at the World Games. The last time the USA was victorious was 1994, when the club went 8-0. That squad included Shaquille O'Neal, Dominique Wilkins, Reggie Miller, Alonzo Mourning and Joe Dumars.
Think about what has happened since. In 2006, the American team lost to Greece in the semifinals, 101-95. While the team won the bronze with a win over Argentina, there were greater expectations. That squad included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Elton Brand.
In 2002, the USA finished in a disappointing sixth place with a 6-3 record. That George Karl-coached team had Reggie Miller, Paul Pierce, Baron Davis and Elton Brand.
The 1998 American team had a good excuse. Rudy Tomjanovich's team was made up of CBA players, college stars and others who were competing overseas. The 7-2 finish and the bronze medal was actually a positive result.
Recently, in an exhibition vs. Spain, the USA survived 86-85 on a blocked shot by Durant. His defensive game-winning play was due to a call by Jim Boeheim to go to the Orange 2-3 zone during a time out. Coach K's squad must rely on its pressure defensively to force turnovers that can ignite their transition game.
People must realize teams like Spain are loaded with NBA talent. Fans expect the USA just to assemble teams of stars and easily move through the competition. Not so fast, as my buddy Lee Corso would say in football. These teams are all talented. However, something tells me the PRIDE instilled in those wearing the red, white and blue will find a way to make it to the winner's Circle!
It will not be easy. Besides Rose and Durant, this club includes Rudy Gay, Danny Granger, Chauncey Billups, Tyson Chandler, Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love, Lamar Odom, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry (who is a bit banged up). No LeBron, no D. Wade, no Paul. It will be a challenge, my friends. The game against Spain proved that!