US upbeat despite key injuries

Despite a rash of season-ending injuries to top NBA players, U.S. Olympic basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has said he believed he can bring a solid team to the London Games.


The U.S. roster pool has lost injured guards Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups and forwards Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge but the talent still available has Krzyzewski upbeat that he can repeat the gold medal success from Beijing.

"We believe we can have a terrific team with the guys we have right now," Krzyzewski, who said this would be his last turn directing the national team, said at the U.S. Olympic Committee's media summit in Dallas. "We believe we can have a special team."

Krzyzewski and USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo feel the labour dispute between NBA team owners and players that led to the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season had complicated things for this Olympic go-round.

"This has been an unusual year in the NBA with injuries, with the shortened season, condensed season, extended season that has led to back-to-back-to-back games early on," Colangelo said. "Whether injuries were due from that condensed schedule we don't know."

While such luminaries as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook give a formidable look to the prospective U.S. roster, the team applied for and was given a 19-day extension by the U.S. Olympic Committee on Monday for finalising its 12-man Olympic roster.

The U.S. team had already been allowed by the USOC to add NBA Sixth Man award winner James Harden and top U.S. college player Anthony Davis of Kentucky, to its pool to bring the once 20-strong list back up to 18 finalists.

Colangelo said that with the NBA Finals running as late as June 26, they would have just two days of training before making their final 12-man roster selection on July 7.

"We need to take inventory of what status our players have," Colangelo said about assessing the health and fitness of the candidates, calling the session more a matter of taking inventory than a tryout. "We need to get through this (NBA) play-off season and pray and keep our fingers crossed we don't have additional injuries."

Krzyzewski, who is 49-1 since taking charge of the U.S. team in 2006 and won gold medals at the 2008 Olympics and 2010 world championships, is trying to become the first U.S. coach to win back-to-back Olympics since Hank Iba in 1968.

His primary concern is having enough pivot players to match up with some of the other Olympic contenders, including number two-ranked Spain, who feature brothers Pau and Marc Gasol, and NBA-leading shot-blocker Serge Ibaka.

"We're not deep in that part of the pool, so when big guys get hurt that's a concern. When that happens we have to adjust accordingly, maybe with a different style of play than if we had Dwight Howard," Krzyzewski said about the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

"But we have time to react. There's lots of ways to play the game."

Krzyzewski acknowledged the pressure on a U.S. coach of winning on the international stage with all the U.S. homegrown talent, but said he experienced more elation than relief after his team's triumph in Beijing.

"You put your career a little bit on the line when you coach the national team if you don't win the gold," the celebrated Duke University coach said. "But not ever having the opportunity is a worst loss.

"When we won in 2008, I wasn't relived, I was in LaLa land. That's a big difference. I felt the same in Istanbul (world championship) and hopefully I will feel the same in London."

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