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PostSubject: US basketball coach says team still learning to play together   Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:49 am

ATHENS, Greece — The United States has three major problems to solve if it is to dominate the forthcoming World Championship, coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday.

Krzyzewski, who has assembled a roster of young NBA talent, said that a lack of height, the differences between NBA and global basketball rules, and his players' lack of experience playing together are all challenges for the U.S.

His team has one more opportunity to prepare, in a tuneup game against Greece on Wednesday. The World Championship, in Turkey, runs Aug. 28 through Sep. 12.

"We have only played three (warmup) games and we have never played together before (in a championship game)," Krzyzewski said after a shootaround at the Olympic Indoor Arena in Athens.

"(Wednesday) night's game for us is about getting a better understanding of ourselves and the international game before we get into the world championships. We get the chance to do it against one of the best teams."

Wednesday's game is being held in the same arena where the U.S. team at the 2004 Olympics — which included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson, among others — failed to win gold for the first time since 1972.

Greece upset the Americans at the previous World Championship, in 2006, winning their semifinal against a lineup that again contained James and Wade.

Only with Krzyzewski's "Redeem Team" of 2008 did the U.S. win another Olympic gold and break a string of disappointing results in major tournaments dating back to the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis.

Krzyzewski's roster for Turkey this year boasts just two veterans — Denver Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups and Lakers forward Lamar Odom. He has said that defending champion Spain is the favorite, but his team defeated the Spaniards, in Madrid, 86-85 last Sunday.

"In Beijing (in 2008) we had a team of experienced professionals; this team has younger professionals, outside of Odom and Billups," said Krzyzewski, who built his fame as a successful college coach.

"We are trying to adapt (to different kinds of players) and it's good. I don't think the players should have to adapt to you as much as you should adapt to them."

Tyson Chandler is the team's only true center as well as its only 7-footer, but Krzyzewski said that situation was not intentional.

"We thought we would be bigger but the first day of training camp we lost (Brook) Lopez, (Amare) Stoudamire and (David) Lee and we could not bring other people in," he said. "There's more (chance of) error with the lack of size."

He added that he might use a zone defense extensively on Wednesday against Greece's tall frontline. "I could also use (Sofoklis) Schortsanitis," Krzyzewski joked, referring to Greece's 2.08-meter, 156-kilogram (6-foot-10, 345-pound) center.

His team must learn to adapt to international basketball rules, especially on traveling, a problem for many U.S. professionals, men and women, playing in Europe. In the game against Spain, the U.S. bench was furious at officials' numerous traveling calls.

"I understand that in the half court, you have to put the ball down before you move, but (calling a traveling violation) in the full court is something that's a little bit unusual," Krzyzewski said.

The U.S. coach may lack the star-studded lineup he had at the Olympics but he has gained a wealth of knowledge on his opponents. At the last World Championship, he was derided by the Greek press and some U.S. commentators for referring to the Greek players using their jersey numbers. On Tuesday he mentioned several names and analyzed their strengths. When he stumbled over the name of Greek center Yannis Bouroussis, he quipped: "I am sorry. But you do have difficulty with (pronouncing) Krzyzewski, don't you?"

U.S. embassy security personnel were at the shootaround and will also be at Wednesday's game. They, along with USA Basketball officials, inspected the premises last Thursday, hours before the Greece-Serbia friendly.

The U.S. team has also done some touring. On Monday evening they visited the Acropolis museum and on Tuesday they went to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in central Athens, where they were greeted by tourism minister Giorgos Nikitiadis, and distributed autographs.

At the World Championship, the U.S. plays Brazil, Croatia, Iran, Slovenia and Tunisia in Group B. Greece, the runner-up at the last worlds, is in Group C with China, the Ivory Coast, Puerto Rico, Russia and Turkey.

Group A features Angola, Argentina, Australia, Germany, Jordan and Serbia and Group D contains Canada, France, Lebanon, Lithuania, New Zealand and defending champion Spain.

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