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Friday, July 20, 2012
Doesn't matter who starts for USA

By Marc Stein
ESPN.com

BARCELONA, Spain -- Day 1 in Catalunya was a light one for Team USA. Apart from a team photo and an open invite to everyone on the roster for a voluntary shooting session, nothing was required of the players Friday after the flight in from England.

That changes Saturday with a practice at the famed Palau Sant Jordi, followed by Sunday's exhibition (3:30 p.m. on ESPN2) against Argentina, with Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola & Co. coming off a 20-point loss to Spain here Friday night.

The three locks for the starting lineup -- against Argentina and anyone else Team USA faces this summer -- are Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Tyson Chandler.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Thursday's 40-point hammering of Great Britain that the other two berths in the starting lineup will be split by Kevin Durant/Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams/Chris Paul.

Anthony was moved to the bench against the Brits for the first time in his Team USA career ... and responded with a smooth 19 points. Williams moved into the first five ahead of Paul and scored an equally smooth 19.

That led to a question I certainly didn't expect to hear in faraway Manchester, but Paul had to field it in the mixed zone Thursday, when he was asked whether there's still a bit of a rivalry between the two franchise point guards from the 2005 draft who've been pitted against each other endlessly over the years.

This past season, actually, was perhaps the first since Paul and Williams arrived in the NBA that it wasn't a frequent topic, whether that's because they're in different conferences now or the longstanding friendship has gradually taken the sting out of the story. Either way, Manchester was just about the last place I'd have expected to hear it dredged up.

Paul, for the record, brushed the question aside quickly, insisting he'll have no problem coming off the bench from here if that's what Coach K decides.

"We've done this before," Paul said of he and D-Will. "We've played together for too long. We understand that at the end of the day, it's all about winning a gold medal. We love playing with one another."

Said Krzyzewski: "I don't necessarily think there is any permanence to our starting lineup. You basically have a group, a core group, of veterans, mostly from the Beijing Olympics that I think need to be the core of this team because they're older [and because] they've been through the Olympics. Durant, talent-wise, is right there with any of them. So some combination of the six or seven of those guys will start.

"We've talked about it," he continued. "They're fine with it. It has to start there, [but] I'm not sure who will start against Argentina. I don't think it really makes a difference. Like [Thursday] morning, I just talked to [Anthony and Paul and said], 'What if we did this?' And they said: 'Fine. Whatever you want to do.' It will be within that realm of seven players, with Tyson at the center spot."