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Commentary: Injured USA hoops team can still earn Olympic Gold

BY MATT CABEL | JULY 09, 2012 6:30 AM

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The USA basketball team took the gold medal away from Spain in Beijing, even when it wasn't expected to. The U.S. will try to do it again in London this year.

This year's roster just looks a little different from what it did four years ago.

Injuries played a role in the lockout-shortened NBA season, and they've also transferred into the process of selecting the men who will try to bring the gold medal back. Previous spot holders Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Derrick Rose, and Dwight Howard all faced injuries at some point during the NBA season that have prevented them from playing in the London Games later this month.

Even one of the potential replacements, the NBA draft first pick Anthony Davis wasn't able to try out because of an ankle injury suffered during a Hornets' workout. This brings us to the million-dollar question: Will these injuries prevent the USA from repeating?

Probably not.

Take a hard look — actually, just take a glance — at this Olympic cycle's roster. It's hard to miss that there's a lot of talent there. A roster featuring the likes of NBA MVP LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony instantly puts a team at a supreme level.

Now add Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, and James Harden to the mix.

Just hand them the medals.

The NBA is in a golden age — there's no shortage of talent on any team in the league (except maybe the Bobcats).

The newest members of team USA — Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, and James Harden — were all members of expectation-defying teams. Griffin pushed the Clippers past the first round of the playoffs in their first postseason appearance since 2006. Iguodala and his eighth-seed 76ers beat the No.1 seed Chicago Bulls and took the Celtics to seven games in the next round. The Thunder's James Harden was monumental in victories over the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals with a multitude of difficult shots in clutch moments.

The USA might even field a better team in London than it did in Beijing. LeBron now has a post game that crushed teams in the playoffs. Paul and Griffin are a scary combo when it comes to the art form that is the alley-oop. Bryant will be Kobe, possibly one of the most pressure-thriving players of all time.

Tyson Chandler rounds things up in the front court, the U.S. team's lone center without Dwight Howard. The reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year will be a great contribution to the team. When he needs to rest, other players such as Kevin Love or Iguodala can take his spot underneath the basket. LeBron could even play a minute or two at the spot (true centers are going out of fashion in today's NBA, anyway).

Most basketball fans worldwide believe Spain to be the team's biggest challenge at this year's games, as was the general opinion in 2008. The Spanish roster features all-star big men such as the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka.

But again, look at the USA's roster. How can a team like this not put 100-plus points on the board every night?

The Americans will be one tough team to beat, stacked with talent as they are. The U.S. could have added three random players from the D-League and still be the gold-medal favorite.

It's not an understatement to say the USA has the best basketball talent in the world — it's pretty close to being a fact. It may be upsetting that injuries are preventing crowd-favorite, talented NBA superstars from representing their country, but it won't stop their teammates from getting the job done in London.

I bet LeBron would bet his Larry O'Brien Trophy on it.


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