With the Opening Ceremonies set for Friday, Team USA basketball has officially wrapped up their pre-Games exhibition schedule with a convincing win against 2008′s silver medalist Spain. On this year’s team, the Knicks have two important pieces that will play huge roles not only towards determining how Team USA finishes in the medals, but how well the New York Knicks can play when next season tips off.
Carmelo Anthony has started and came off the bench for Team USA in the exhibitions, but his best performance easily came yesterday against Spain. With Team USA struggling to find their rhythm in the first half, Coach K brought Anthony in off the bench, and he simply exploded. ‘Melo dropped in 23 of his team-high 27 points in the first half and righted the ship for the team heading into halftime. His dominant performance all but solidified his role on Team USA as the de facto sixth man, or occasional starter, depending on the opponent.
However, there are some important factors to remember when evaluating Carmelo’s performance on the international stage. For one, the international game is a completely different beast from the NBA. In all likelihood, Anthony will flex between playing small forward and power forward with the emphasis on international play moving away from dominant inside big men. For example, its not uncommon for Coach K to use Kevin Durant or LeBron James at the center position and not just get away with it, but dominate with that line-up.
Will there be scenarios next season when the Knicks play small and put ‘Melo into the power forward slot? Absolutely, especially if Amar’e Stoudemire finds himself hurt for any period of time. But, even with that being said, anything that happens at these Olympic Games for ‘Melo need to be taken with a grain of salt. The absolute best result that could come from London is Carmelo Anthony re-focusing his game mentally, as he did after the 2008 Beijing Games. That, more than anything else, is what Knicks fans should be most excited about.
As for Tyson Chandler, the Big Man in the Middle serves one purpose on Team USA: size. Especially against Spain’s towers of the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka. We saw the need for a healthy Chandler yesterday and how important he will be to this team. He’s the only true center on the team, and will be needed against Spain.
Chandler had to sit early in yesterday’s game after picking up two quick fouls, and Spain immediately responded by pounding the ball inside to Ibaka, who feasted on the smaller line-up Team USA was running against them. Chandler will need to stay out of foul trouble in order to protect the rim for his teammates. Coach K will never need him to score in bunches or be a major factor on offense outside of setting high picks.
Nevertheless, Tyson Chandler may be one of the most critical pieces to the hopeful gold medal Team USA has set their sights on. Either way, one thing is for sure: the two Knicks in London will be playing some of the most important roles on the team.