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Magic Man13
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PostSubject: US squad tries to end world title drought   Wed Aug 25, 2010 11:47 am

WASHINGTON -- A young American squad of National Basketball Association stars lacking any members from the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medal team will try to end a US title drought at the World Championships.

The Americans, who open Saturday against Croatia, are without Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony or the other elite players who made good on their vow to reclaim Olympic gold.

Instead, a US lineup with five 21-year-old players will try and ensure a berth at the 2012 London Olympics by bringing the Americans their first World Championships crown since 1994 in Toronto.

"It makes us go out and play harder knowing everyone is calling us the ‘B-team’ and not thinking we’re going to win," US guard Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls said.

The last US team to win a world crown was dubbed "Dream Team II" with a lineup of US veteran stars that still paled in comparison to the legendary 1992 Olympic originals such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.

This squad has a similar situation when compared to the 2008 team, but that US gold medal squad had its roots in the 2006 worlds in Japan when James, Wade and Anthony only finished third but built the teamwork they needed later.

Since settling for 2004 Athens Olympic bronze, the Americans have formed a national team program. Part of that commitment means having years where players do not lose their NBA rest months wearing red, white and blue.

"We’re not going to get the same guys over and over," said US coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"Like the guys who were on the Olympics team. We think a lot of those guys will come back for London -- a number of them but not all of them. So we’re trying to develop a culture."

That could become a problem in 2012 deciding between superstars and the key men who have done the work putting the Americans back into the Olympics. But for now, the concern is making the most of young talent against veteran rivals.

Defending world champion Spain and Greece, which ousted the Americans in a 2006 world semifinal, figure to be favorites, with the US squad a threat if they come together well.

Tyson Chandler of the Dallas Mavericks is the only US center while rivals have depth in the middle and their own NBA big men such as Spain’s Marc Gasol, Argentina’s Luis Scola and Brazil’s Nene.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom, a member of the 2004 US bronze medal Olympic squad, will likely fill the big man role behind Chandler when needed. He knows how the experience of global games can mature players quickly.

Last season’s NBA scoring champion, Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City, joins Chandler, Odom and Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala as crucial frontline figures while Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Denver’s Chauncey Billups lead the guards.

"This team is younger but very athletic," Odom said. "Nobody in this tournament jumps higher than Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant or Tyson Chandler." -- AFP
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