More 'B Team' than 'Dream Team' as U.S. eye Rio basketball gold

Sat Jul 23, 2016 9:18pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - No Stephen Curry? No LeBron James? No problem. Despite missing the game's two best players the U.S. men's basketball team are still the slam dunk favorite to return home from the Rio Olympics with the gold medal.

With many top players turning down a chance to throw on the Stars and Stripes, the U.S. squad are more "B Team" than "Dream Team" but are nonetheless a frightening collection of talent capable of providing Olympic-size nightmares for opponents.

Among other Americans choosing to skip the Aug. 5-21 Rio Games 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 of their "A Team" would cripple their medal hopes. But such is the depth of basketball talent in the United States that their absence has barely caused a ripple of concern.

It would be difficult to label any lineup that boasts former NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant, 2016 NBA champion Kyrie Irving and two-time Olympic gold medalist 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 United States would still be expected to surface with a gold medal on the final day of Rio Games.

"We are blessed with a lot of talent here in the USA, we have the ability to withstand players dropping out for various reasons," Colangelo told Reuters in a telephone interview. "With the depth of our national team roster we were able to select a very strong team."

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 an unmatched winning pedigree to Rio.   Continued...

Jul 22, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; USA guard Kevin Durant (5) goes to the net while being defended by Argentina forward Gabriel Deck (14) during a basketball exhibition game at T-Mobile Arena. USA won 111-74. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports