In London, U.S. men rely on their own King

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 8, 2012 - 1:43 PM

LeBron James has kept the U.S. team from melting down to some surprising opponents.

hide

LeBron James and the U.S. men's basketball team face Australia in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Photo: Charles Krupa, ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

LONDON - Even if the U.S. men's basketball team cruises to another gold medal, the chronology of the Olympics demands a new dynamic every four years, however predictable the result.

In Beijing, the most talented All-Star basketball team in the world deferred to Kobe Bryant in big moments. In London, two new players are emerging as the team's clutch scorers.

One is Kevin Durant, the world's most gifted offensive player.

One is the ring-wearing version of LeBron James, the world's best basketball player.

When Lithuania took a fourth-quarter lead against the U.S. on Saturday, James blew the game open with a three-pointer, a dunk and a spinning shot in the lane.

When Argentina hung close at halftime on Monday, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski asked James to "take over the game" in the third quarter, and he did.

In fact, James can take over in many ways. Monday, Krzyzewski played him in the post. James has completed 50-foot spinning bounce passes, shot the three-pointer and been a raging bull on the fast break. He may be the U.S. team's best passer, defender, floor-runner and finisher.

"I wanted to start the second half going to him in the post, and he responded," Krzyzewski said. "LeBron has been kind of our quarterback on defense. He was all over the place defensively, especially in the second and third quarters."

As quarterfinals in the Olympic tournament begin Wednesday with the U.S. facing Australia, Team USA has displayed flaws. They have only one polished, elite, interior defender (other than James), in Tyson Chandler, and he's foul-prone, especially in the international game. Lithuania drove to the basket at will and often finished.

They have so many effortless scorers, such as Durant and Carmelo Anthony, that they sometimes lapse into settling for outside shots, reducing games to shooting contests instead of emphasizing their strength -- superior athletes who can drive and create. They sometimes lack focus, and need to be challenged to play with intensity. Krzyzewski seems keen on reminding his players that they can be beaten.

"The main thing we all learned is how many good teams there are,'' Krzyzewski said. "In our pool, Lithuania almost beat us, [Argentina] was an unbelievably tough game and France is playing extremely well.

"I really think there's more competition here than in 2008. That's what I've learned. I think a number of teams can win the gold medal. ... We have the utmost respect for world basketball. There are just more good teams."

Coaches are prone to overstating the quality of their competition, but his point is accurate. Most Olympic teams rely on NBA players or even NBA stars. The U.S. retains a large talent advantage but no longer plays exclusively against teams that a group of American collegians could contend against.

The Americans have two trump cards in close games: Durant's ability to score at will, and James' leadership. The latter is a new development. James' ability to win an NBA title has moved him past Bryant as the best and most important American player.

That's why, in close games, Krzyzewski looks past all of his other stars, and asks James to take over the game.

Staff writer Rachel Blount contributed to this report.

  • MEN'S BASKETBALL

    Quarterfinals: U.S. vs. Australia

    4:15 p.m. today (live) •NBCSN

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - LP: B. Finnegan 4 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: Y. Petit 11
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 2 FINAL
San Jose 1
Boston 4 FINAL
Toronto 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
Montreal 3
New Jersey 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Dallas 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 7
Detroit 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Chicago 2 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL
Nashville 0
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Minnesota 7
Florida 1 FINAL(OT)
Arizona 2
Washington 3 FINAL
Calgary 1
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
UAB 17 FINAL
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia 27
San Jose St 31 FINAL
Navy 41
Northern Ill 28 FINAL
Eastern Mich 17
(25) UCLA 40 FINAL
Colorado 37
Akron 21 FINAL
Ball State 35
Massachusetts 35 FINAL
Toledo 42
Ohio U 21 FINAL
Western Mich 42
Ga Southern 69 FINAL
Georgia State 31
Kent State 3 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 10
Oregon State 14 FINAL
Stanford 38
Fla Atlantic 16 FINAL
(23) Marshall 35
Louisiana Tech 31 FINAL
Southern Miss 20
(1) Miss State 45 FINAL
Kentucky 31
Georgia Tech 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 28
(22) West Virginia 34 FINAL
Oklahoma State 10
Texas Tech 27 FINAL
(10) TCU 82
Michigan 11 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 35
Boston College 23 FINAL
Wake Forest 17
Central Mich 20 FINAL
Buffalo 14
Vanderbilt 14 FINAL
Missouri 24
Old Dominion 51 FINAL
Western Ky 66
UNLV 20 FINAL
Utah State 34
Temple 14 FINAL
UCF 34
(15) Arizona 59 FINAL
Washington St 37
Texas-El Paso 34 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 0
Wyoming 31 FINAL
Colorado State 45
Syracuse 6 FINAL
(21) Clemson 16
Texas State 22 FINAL
ULM 18
(3) Ole Miss 7 FINAL
(24) LSU 10
(4) Alabama 34 FINAL
Tennessee 20
So Carolina 35 FINAL
(5) Auburn 42
(13) Ohio State 31 FINAL
Penn State 24
(20) USC 21 FINAL
(19) Utah 24
(14) Arizona State 24 FINAL
Washington 10
Nevada 9 3rd Qtr 9:27
Hawaii 10
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Seattle 2
D.C. 1 FINAL
Montreal 1
Toronto FC 0 FINAL
New England 1
Portland 2 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Colorado 0 FINAL
Vancouver FC 1
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 24 FINAL
Toronto 26
Brt Columbia 28 FINAL
Winnipeg 23

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings do Sunday in Tampa Bay?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close