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- Big 12 Championship semifinals round up:
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Top Five Team USA Storylines
- Updated: August 5, 2016
The warmup to the Olympic Games for Team USA basketball has been a mix of snapchat singalongs and jaw-dropping exhibition highlights. While this certainly isn’t as star studded a squad as we’ve seen on Mike Krzyzewski’s previous two Gold Medal winning teams, there is no question that this team is the heavy favorite to dominate its way to gold for a third straight Olympics.
As the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics are only one hour away, lets take a look at the five biggest storylines for Team USA basketball.
5. Coach K’s Last Ride
Mike Krzyzewski is ready to hand over the reigns of USA Basketball to Gregg Poppovich after the Rio Games. Until then, this tournament will serve as a way for Coach K to go out on top and cement his legacy in international competition. While he’s had the privilege of coaching teams stacked with twelve of the top players in the world each year since he took over for USA Basketball in 2005, he’s played a crucial role in getting those players to play in the first place.
Team USA’s bronze medal finish in those games sent a major thud across the country, as America did not come out on top for the first time since the 1972 Games in Munich. That was the first time Team USA did not win since it added professional players to the roster in 1992, when of course the Dream Team was formed.
This crop of USA talent is not nearly as deep as Coach K’s other two Olympic squads, but he’s still managed to bring twelve of the sport’s best on board despite all the health and safety risks surrounding the Rio Games. It’ll be nice for Coach K to go out a champion, assuming this team takes care of business.
4. Paul George’s Return
Paul George’s injury leading up to the 2014 FIBA World Cup might’ve been the most gruesome basketball injury I’ve ever seen. It’s certainly up there with Shaun Livingston’s and Kevin Ware’s. That broken leg cost George almost all of the 2014-15 NBA Season, but he bounced back in a major way last year in Indiana, en route to the seventh seed in the East.
Now, George gets a chance to capture that Gold Medal he’s always wanted. For him to come back to Team USA after going what he’s gone through says a lot about his character and competitive nature. While Coach K has not officially named a starting lineup for the squad, the presumed lineup is Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Demarcus Cousins. Even so, George should be in line for a major workload during these Olympics. It’ll be special to watch things come full circle for George in Rio.
3. The Kyrie Irving Show
With so many American stars dropping out of the Olympics, it paved the way for Kyrie Irving to be the clear-cut starting point guard on this team. Not only will he start, but he’ll play a ton of minutes thanks to the squad only having him and Kyle Lowry to rotate between at point. Kyrie will look to build off that 2014 FIBA World Cup MVP performance, and he will have plenty of opportunities to do so for his former college coach.
The amount of Vines of Uncle Drew crossing players from across the globe up will be out of control. Needless to say, Kyrie Irving is one of the favorites to garner MVP honors for Team USA in Rio.
2. Melo’s Veteran Leadership
Carmelo Anthony is the first player in USA Basketball history to play in four Olympic Games. He of course was there in Athens in 2004 for that underwhelming Bronze Medal finish. Melo is the oldest player on the roster at age 32, so it will nice to see the type of insight he provides for all of the younger guys.
Draymond Green is the only natural 4 on the roster, so you’d imagine that Melo will primarily be slotted there next to Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, or Green should Coach K opt to play some small ball. Anthony will get his points, but at this stage of his career it is doubtful that he will be a primary scoring option for Team USA. Still, it will fun to watch Melo both on and off the court during the Olympics.
1. Golden State’s Trio
Call it Christmas in August if you will. While we ordinarily have to wait for the start of the regular season to see a major free agent signee play with his new teammates, we’ll get a sneak peak of the new-look Golden State Warriors (sans Steph Curry) during the Olympics. Kevin Durant was already shown a bunch of love during USA’s recent exhibition at the Oracle Arena, but seeing KD team up with Klay and Draymond during the Games will be a whole different animal.
As I’ve mentioned, it’s likely that this trio will be starting together in Coach K’s lineup. Even if that’s not the case, we’ll still see a heavy dose of at least two of the three on the floor together throughout each game. The highlight reels will feature plenty of crisp passes and great chemistry from the future Warriors teammates.
*For a more in-depth preview of Team USA and the 2016 Olympics check out the K&C Basketball Podcast