If you’ve read anything about Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas this week, you’d think it’s a forgone conclusion the Americans will win gold at the Beijing Olympics (see screenshot from today’s ESPN.com).
But as I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of holes in this year’s U.S. squad â€“ particularly its lack of size (Dwight Howard is the lone center) and health (not only is Dwyane Wade coming off injury, but LeBron James went down in Tuesday’s practice).
While this is a pretty darn good team (thanks to the addition of Kobe Bryant and depth at point â€“ not that Kirk Hinrich isn’t a gold-medal PG), we’ve said this before about American squads that ended up flopping on the national stage (see 2004 and 2006).
We’ll find out just how good this team can be starting Friday when it hosts Canada at UNLV. But don’t expect it to be much of a contest since Steve Nash and Samuel Dalembert won’t be involved.
The Americans will then compete in the USA Basketball International Challenge in Shanghai, China, Aug. 3-5, but “the experts” believe the real test won’t come until later in the tournament when they face Greece on Aug. 10 and then Argentina after the preliminary round wraps up.
Greece doesn’t have any NBAers but beat the U.S. two years ago and just breezed through its qualifying tournament behind European hotshot Theo Papaloukas.
Argentina, for those who stopped watching after the Americans flamed out four years ago, took home the last Olympic gold and is expected to suit up four NBA players this summer in Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, Fabricio Oberto and Luis Scola.
But Aug. 16 is the date you’re going to want to circle on your West Coast Bias calendar.
That’s when the Americans face what could be their biggest challenge of the tournament in Pau Gasol and Spain.
The winners of the 2006 FIBA World Championship have four NBA players on their roster, including Gasol’s brother, Marc, who is better than most think, Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if the player who nearly put Kobe’s Lakers over the top this season knocks Team USA out of gold medal contention?
Other teams to look out for in the tournament include Yao and Yi’s boys from China, who open against the U.S. on Aug. 10, along with Bogut’s Bunch from Australia and Dirk and Caveman Kaman’s Crew from Germany.
Let the Games begin.