LAS VEGAS — Any good coach plays to the strengths of the guys on his roster. And Mike Krzyzewski is a very good coach.
He looks at a roster of elite players entering their peak, a roster deep with great athletes no other team in the world could match. He and assistant coach Mike D’Antoni know what they want with this roster:
They want a track meet.
“The one thing we do have right now, we have a lot of speed,” LeBron James said Wednesday. “Coach K., Coach (Mike) D’Antoni, they put in some (offensive) sets, but ultimately they want us to defend, rebound and run. Because we have the ability to do that. It’s kind of similar to what I do in Miami. Coach (Erik Spoelstra) always says let’s defend, and if we can get a rebound let’s get up the floor fast and not face a (set) defense.
“In international ball we know we’re going to face a lot of zone. They’re going to dare us to shoot jumpers and we’re going to face all these zones, but a zone can’t be set up if we get stops.”
Starting tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas against the Dominican Republic, Team USA is going to use pressure defense to create turnovers and missed shots, then convert those into fast breaks. They have big rebounders — Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler — who are great outlet passers, they have unstoppable forces in the open court like Lebron, and this team is loaded with guys who can finish at the rim.
We’re going to see some massive Blake Griffin dunks.
But Krzyzewski knows he has that. Right now he’s got the USA Select Team out there running zone against the Olympians, trying to grind the game down. Dealing with zone in the half court has been one of the focuses of practices.
“We figure that we’re really going to see that, teams are really going to pack the paint against us, so we have to be able to shoot it and knock down shots,” Kevin Love said.
For Krzyzewski, it’s about the team really coming together as a unit, that’s what this team is going to need against Spain or when challenged.
“We have 12 really good guys that over the next couple weeks we have to develop into a team,” Krzyzewski said, adding that it was a process.
The key part of that process is to have them be individuals within the system.
“All these guys want to fit in, they have great attitudes, but as their fitting in we want them to be the players they were with the roles they had with their parent team…” Coach K said. “I’ll give you an example. In ’08 (Beijing Olympics) Wade came off the bench, but when he came off the bench he didn’t come off the bench like an off the bench player, he came off the bench as Dwyane Wade.”
Tonight against a decent Dominican team — they have Al Horford and Francisco Garcia, and the team finished fourth at the recent Olympic Qualifying Tournament (the top three teams got invites to the games) — we’ll get a first look at how the process is going.