There was more room on the bench Sunday for Team USA's lone exhibition game on American soil as Jerry Colangelo and his staff settled on the first cuts before paring the roster to 12 for the World Championships. JaVale McGee and Jeff Green were the easy decisions. Now comes the tough one.
Not much could be read into the U.S. team's 86-55 rout of France at Madison Square Garden, other than the fact that Tony Parker is on vacation. That's what he said, anyway, when he was approached by several reporters on the court after the final buzzer and explained why he wasn't talking to the media.
But a glimpse of the chemistry and personality of this star-starved U.S. team that will venture to Madrid Monday for its next round of preparation for the games in Turkey did begin to emerge during a week-long training camp in New York, capped by Sunday's rout of a French team featuring four NBA players (Boris Diaw, who apparently is on the Eddy Curry diet; Nicolas Batum; Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca) plus the brother of another one (Florent Pietrus).
Coach Mike Krzyzewski used a starting lineup of Tyson Chandler (the only true center on the roster), Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Rajon Rondo and Chauncey Billups. It's all obviously a work in progress, so I can't quibble with it too much. I guess if you only have one center, he has to start. But if Coach K wanted to get creative -- especially against undersized opponents -- I think replacing Chandler with Lamar Odom and Iguodala with Rudy Gay would be a lineup that would do some damage. In fact, the group that built the biggest lead of the game to that point, 37-28 with 1:56 left in the second quarter, featured Odom and Gay with Rondo, Iguodala and Durant. They did it by taking advantage of the two most obvious strengths this team has: defense and athleticism.
The starters used that blueprint to open up a 19-point lead midway through the third, getting a block from Durant, a steal from Iguodala, and two 3-pointers from Billups before getting substituted for en masse. In came Rose, Gay, Odom, Danny Ganger and Eric Gordon, who stayed on the floor until Kevin Love subbed for Odom with the U.S. leading by 24, 70-46.
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