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The U.S. men’s basketball team, coached by Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, must figure out how to defend the pick and roll, a basketball basic the Greeks used effectively to keep the Americans out of the gold medal game in the 2006 World Championships.

That’s the only loss for the U.S. since the team began asking for a three-year national team commitment from players.

When the teams meet in pool play Thursday (8 a.m. EDT, live on the USA Network), point guards Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Jason Kidd will be the key to defending the play — and producing a different outcome.

But it won’t be easy with the more-stringent officiating in the international game.

“It’s different,” Williams said. “You reach out and grab somebody, it’s going to be an intentional foul.

“It’ll be a tough test. Things didn’t play out well against them in the world championships. They’ll be a difficult team.”

— Mike Persinger

In the bus with the U.S.

BEIJING — Ever wonder what it might be like to ride a bus with a gaggle for NBA stars on their way to a game?

According to Kobe Bryant, riding with the USA men's basketball team here in Beijing on their way to games and practices is kind of a loud experience.

Here the L.A. Lakers star discusses that and why he didn't bring his iPod to Beijing.


James learned from bench in 2004

BEIJING — The first time I interviewed LeBron James, I was working at The Sporting News and James was 16 years old and still tearing up both the basketball court and the gridiron.

That was before he became the Next Big Thing, before he signed the huge Nike deal, basically before he became "King James."

So it's fascinating for me to watch James at work with the media here in Beijing at the Summer Olympics, and to hear what he will talk about openly and what he won't address.

On Wednesday before the U.S. team practiced at Beijing Normal University, we got some of the former.

Someone asked what it was like to ride the pine in 2004 at the Athens Games. Listen to his response.

Keep in mind that LeBron played well in Athens, he just didn't play a lot. The story, I'm told by people who were there, goes that U.S. coach Larry Brown had a habit of yanking James after he'd make a string of great defensive and/or offensive plays.


Wade jokes about Krzyzewski

BEIJING — Here's USA guard and leading scorer Dwyane Wade describing USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski like a kid on too much sugar.

This comes from the U.S. practice session at Beijing Normal University on Wednesday.


Can the U.S. flip the switch?

BEIJING — The U.S. men's basketball team starts a new season, the tough portion of its Beijing Olympic schedule, on Thursday at 8 a.m. ET when it plays Greece.

The U.S. has played an efficient game, beating China and Angola by 31 and 21 respectively. But Greece, Spain and Germany are expected to provide stiffer competition to close out Pool B play in Beijing.

Greece is the last team to beat the U.S., Spain is the defending world champion, and Germany features Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzky.

Nate McMillan, a USA assistant and Portland TrailBlazers head coach, said U.S. fans shouldn't worry; the U.S. players have an extra gear that normal folks can't understand but will see starting Thursday.


Wade runs into language barrier

BEIJING — USA guard Dwyane Wade took the podium after the Americans beat Angola 97-76 on Tuesday night at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium, took a question, and immediately looked thoroughly confused.

Wade turned to U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski and told him he couldn't understand the question.

Krzyzewski explained and Wade, who'd just led the U.S. scoring a second straight game with 19 points, finally answered.

Wade wasn't suffering from a brain cloud. Turns out he had his headphones, which pipe in translations of questions in other languages, tuned to the Chinese channel. He was listening to Mandarin instead of English.

Krzyzewski later teased Wade, "I was wondering about you," before explaining to the assembled media what had happened.

U.S. 97, Angola 76

BEIJING — Someone forgot to flip the switch.

The U.S. beat Angola 97-76 at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on Tuesday in a game that could only be described as a comedown from Sunday's electric opener against China.

It wasn't until a random group of fans op on the third level started chanting, "USA! USA! USA!" with the Americans up by 25 at the end of the third quarter that the building showed any life.

Yao vs. LeBron

BEIJING - Check out this Coke commercial that's running through the Olympics.

I'm just wondering why Yao Ming's rocket-riding cartoon self doesn't totally bust through LeBron James' flying-on-the-wings=of-an-eagle cartoon self?

Obviously James won Sunday's round when the U.S. beat China in an Olympic basketball game on Yao's home turf. Cool commercial, though. I like the cartoon. Nice Mandarin, too, LeBron.

USA 101, China 70

BEIJING - The U.S. beat China 101-70 in Pool B play for the Beijing Olympics at Wukesong Indoor Stadium late Sunday night. It hardly mattered, not when an appreciative, boisterous hometown crowd came to show their appreciation for the Chinese national team.

The Chinese took the floor and the crowd went wild. Yao Ming made the first bucket, a 3 from the wing, and the crowd went wild.

Chinese Landry Clark look-alike Zhu Fangyu - that's a Friday Nigh Lights reference for all you non-believers - made two 3's in the first quarter and the crowd went wild. Dwyane Wade scored several  fastbreak buckets - he led all socrers with 19 points-  while keying a second-quarter spurt for the U.S. and the crowd went wild.

You get the picture. Basketball is alive and well in China. Time for the NBA to move in.

Krzyzewski, Parker loved the feeling

BEIJING — The athletes and coaches who walked in with their respective countries at the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics had to stand for hours.

USA men's coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA women's forward Candace Parker, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 WNBA Draft, found the experience at the Bird's Nest worth every minute on their feet. 

Listen to them reminisce. By the way, Krzyzewski is talking about former U.S. president George H.W. Bush when he talks about "41." As in the 41st POTUS.

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