MACAU, China &
The U.S. men's basketball team is striving to be confident heading into the Beijing Games while avoiding the complacency that has sabotaged it in recent Olympics.
The was the message from coach Mike Krzyzewski after he and the star-studded team arrived today in this southern Chinese casino enclave for its final preparations for the Beijing Games.
The team is "trying to be very confident, but that doesn't mean overconfident," Krzyzewski said.
"We don't have nothing to be complacent about," he said. "We haven't accomplished anything yet. We're in the midst of trying to accomplish."
One of the Americans' most confident stars, the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, joined the team's first practice in Macau today. His right ankle was taped as a precaution after he sat out the Americans' first tuneup against Canada on Friday with a sprain.
"Every time we step onto the court, we know we have the talent and we know we have the strength to go out and be the best team on the court," said James, who was quoted in the recent issue of Time magazine as saying he guarantees gold for the team at Beijing.
"The chemistry right now is really good," he said.
James said he will play in upcoming exhibition games in Macau and Shanghai.
Despite its NBA star power, the U.S. has underachieved in international competition during the past eight years. It finished sixth in the 2002 world championships and won bronze at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and at the 2006 world championships.
Krzyzewski predicted the Beijing basketball tournament will be the best ever because "world basketball has gotten to another level."
"Many of the teams we face ... some will have a starting five of five NBA players," he said. "World basketball is terrific and it'll be a tough challenge for us."
In its opening game at the Olympics on Aug. 10, the U.S. will face host China, which has a lineup that includes Houston Rockets center Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, who was recently traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the New Jersey Nets.
Asked about other contenders for the Olympic title, the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade noted defending Olympic champions Argentina and reigning world champion Spain, but said, "I'm not going to say anyone else (other than the U.S.) is a favorite to win."
The current squad is largely similar to the U.S. team for the 2006 world championships &
but has added Kobe Bryant and veteran Jason Kidd.
U.S. team managing director Jerry Colangelo said the Americans are aware that an ad hoc team of NBA stars doesn't cut any more and noted the current squad was assembled in 2006.
"The core players have been together for the last three years. In the past, all-star teams were selected," Colangelo said. "That was good enough, but that's not the case any more."
Team spokesman Craig Miller said Wade, who is recovering from left knee surgery, and the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, recovering from a stress fracture to his sternum, are both healthy. Wade scored 20 points in the U.S.' 120-65 rout of Canada.
In Macau, the U.S. will play Turkey on Thursday and Lithuania on Friday before moving on to Shanghai, where they will play Russia on Aug. — and Australia on Aug. 5.
Confident U.S. hoopsters arrive in China; King James practices
MACAU, China &