Jul 27, 2016

    US basketball's 'B Team' still favourites


    NO STEPHEN Curry?

    No LeBron James?

    No problem.

    Despite missing the game's two best players, the United States basketball team are still the favourites to return home from Rio with the gold medal.

    With many top players turning down a chance to throw on the Stars and Stripes, the US line-up are more B Team than Dream Team.

    But they are nonetheless a frightening collection of talent capable of providing Olympic-size nightmares for opponents.

    Among other Americans choosing to skip Rio are National Basketball Association All-Stars Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, James Harden, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.

    For any other country, losing nearly all their A Team members would cripple medal hopes.

    But such is the depth of basketball talent in the US that their absence has barely caused a ripple of concern.

    It would be difficult to label any line-up that boast former NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant, 2016 NBA champion Kyrie Irving and two-time Olympic gold medallist Carmelo Anthony a B Team.

    Yet, that will be the perception.

    But the fact is even if Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo was forced to dive deeper into the American talent pool, the US would still be expected to win gold on the final day of the Rio Games.

    While Team USA will have only two players with Olympic experience, the two men at the top, Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, bring stability and winning pedigree.

    Krzyzewski, a legendary college coach at Duke University, has guided the US to gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and the 2010 and 2014 Fiba World Cups.

    In Olympic competition, the US are on a 17-game unbeaten run that dates back to the bronze-medal game of the 2004 Athens Games.