A lot has happened within the men’s Olympic camp in the short amount of time that Team USA has been training. Some of the headlines you may already know about it, as they have surround Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. After this video of Blake Griffin throwing it down and Irving running circles around the Olympic team surfaced, it didn’t take long for people to notice how lucky the Cavaliers are to have such a talented leader on their team.
Irving emerged as the star on the USA select team, the team of young and up-and-coming stars that train against the men’s Olympic team to toughen them up for their international opponents. His bulldog attitude has also shown when conversing with his soon-to-be USA teammates. After challenging Kobe Bryant to a one-on-one game of basketball, with the $50,000 stake going to charity, people from around the league saw Kyrie as a fearless attacker. Cavaliers fans were not surprised about any of these happenings, as they have seen it all last season in his rookie campaign.
A campaign that landed him NBA Rookie of the Year honors and garnered him looks for an All-Star selection after only playing in 11 collegiate games as a Duke Blue Devil. Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who coached Kyrie for the limited time he was at Duke, has hinted at Irving being a possible selection for the Olympic team in Brazil next time around. But with Kyrie fracturing a bone in his right hand, his amazing summer has come to an end. No worries though, he will be available come training camp in late September.
With Kyrie aside, the U.S. Olympic team is gearing up for a very special showing in London very soon. As talks about the Dream Team vs. the 2012 men’s basketball team surfaced, the media flocked to the U.S. Olympic basketball scene.
Chairman of USA basketball Jerry Colangelo, who helped rebuild the Olympic team from a disappointing bronze medal performance in the 2004 games to gold-medal dominance in 2008, will take nothing less than gold this year. Bryant seems to be shooting higher than that, declaring that this year’s team would beat the Dream Team of 1992. Michael Jordan, a star on that ’92 team, had this to say:
For him to compare those two teams is not one of the smarter things he ever could have done.
In fact a lot of the members of the Dream Team spoke up, a lot saying that a 2012 team without Derrick Rose, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Blake Griffin would still not be able to compare to a team that beat their international foes by an average of more than 43 points and had a roster consisting of 11 Hall of Famers. Kobe justified his comments by describing the ’12 Olympic squad like this:
Bunch of racehorses, players who are incredibly athletic, while the Dream Team consisted mainly of players at the tail end of their careers.
But with Griffin, one of their most athletic players, out with a knee injury the team will be missing the height and athleticism that Colangelo and Krzyzewski thought they would have for the 2012 games after they finalized the roster. He has already undergone arthroscopic knee surgery, which will have him ready for the start of the 2012-13 NBA season. The diagnosis for his injury was a torn medial meniscus in his left knee.
Although it is the same knee that Griffin injured before the start of his rookie season in 2009, it is not related to the injury he sustained while training for the Olympics. He also sprained that same knee in a playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies this past season, but hasn’t missed a regular season or playoff game since his injury before the 2009-10 season. The Los Angeles Clippers star averaged 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds last season and just recently signed a five-year, $95 million extension.
Anthony Davis, who was initially cut from the team, was assigned to the roster after Griffin went down in practice last Wednesday.
But Griffin’s absence hasn’t slowed anything special that Team USA has been doing so far in the time before the Olympics. Two games, one which was a close-fought victory against Brazil, have been sort of a scale for the United States to see how close they are to capturing that gold medal again. Colangelo had this to say about this year’s roster:
The Dream Team will always be the team people recognize as the team of all time. But this team here is a strong team, and compared to the 2008 team . . . this team will be successful too, and I think it’s deeper in terms of the roster. Very talented. Very versatile. People will say we don’t have size, but we have quickness, versatility, athleticism. We talked about it. You go with what you’ve got and there’s guys in this group who can play two to four positions. You don’t take big just to have big. Kevin Love, Chandler can play center. LeBron can play the one, two, three, four or five.
In the first exhibition game before the real games start in London was against the Dominican Republic, whom the U.S. completely rolled over in a lopsided 113-59 victory. Durant scored 21 of his 24 points in the first half, also grabbing a total of 10 rebounds. The Oklahoma City star hit five of six three pointers from off the bench
The Dominican Republic, which was coached by Kentucky coach John Calipari,barely missed qualifying for the London games. Durant was the MVP of the world basketball championship games two years ago, but is not a starter on the Team USA roster for now. Andre Iguodala had 18 points and Carmelo Anthony added 13.
In a second matchup, one that was against possible threat Brazil, the United States struggled a bit more. In a game played at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. Brazil gave the United States all they could handle, as the team that Bryant thought could dismantle the Dream Team had to come from behind to win. It was a hard-fought 80-69 victory for Team USA.
With the United States improving to a 2-0 record in a five-game exhibition series, the Brazilian frontcourt gave the U.S. all they could ask for. Looking at the international teams as a whole, Brazil and Spain pose as some of the biggest threats to Coach K’s team. That is because the Brazil frontcourt of Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao and the Spain frontcourt of Marc and Pau Gasol.
LeBron James was a big reason the U.S. came home with a win Monday night, as the MVP and Finals MVP scored 30 points and snatched six rebounds. James didn’t play enough minutes to have any sort of impact in the first game of the exhibition series.
Team USA will be traveling overseas to Manchester Arena to play Great Britain on July 19.
Stay tuned to Right Down Euclid for more Olympic coverage