For Knicks fans, the London Olympics will mark the return for two of their biggest stars to competitive basketball, and both will serve big roles on Team USA. However, the player serving the more important role on the team will be Tyson Chandler.
With Dwight Howard missing the Games due to back surgery, Chandler gets the promotion from back-up center to a starting role, likely alongside the likes of Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
We’ve talked before here at Buckets how Chandler fits perfectly into that starting five because he won’t command a high volume of touches offensively, all while effectively protecting the rim, grabbing offensive rebounds and shutting down the lane on the defensive end.
Barring a major rash of injuries striking Team USA, they will walk into the Opening Ceremonies in August as the heavy favorites to take home another gold medal. But, the road isn’t going to be as easy as casual basketball fans may think. No team should scare the United States more than Spain.
Look, as basketball fans, we’re missing out by not having a healthy Ricky Rubio available in these Olympics. As an 18-year old, he guided a strong Spain squad through the games on the way to a medal, and proved to be the hardest test the Redeem Team had to face on their way to gold.
This time around, it won’t be the back court play of Spain that should have USA fans worried. Its the dynamic inside options the team is going to run out. A lot of people are familiar with the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, who can provide scoring inside along with strong defense. In 2012, Team USA will have to account for the newest addition to Spain’s roster, Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka. Throw in Ibaka with the inside-outside offensive game of Pau and the gritty rebounding and low-block scoring of Marc, there is significant reason to be concerned.
The pressure is going to be on Chandler to provide enough presence inside on the defensive end to not only neutralize the threats on the block from Spain, but keep them off the glass as well. Of course, he won’t be doing it alone, but without a healthy Dwight Howard on the roster, the pressure squarely falls on his shoulders.
Another key to how successful this Team USA squad can be doesn’t fall on a Knicks relation, but on the health of Kevin Love and who Coach K chooses to pick as a back-up center, with options like Roy Hibbert and Anthony Davis.
Right now, the first line of defense for Team USA sits with Tyson Chandler. If you want to pull out any story lines from the Olympics heading into next season, they should start with how well can Chandler hold on the international stage. His success there could dictate just how well the Knicks can play next season.