LONDON » While teams such as Nigeria want to test themselves against LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, they may have to settle for Kevin Love and Andre Iguodala.
U.S. Olympic men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski already knows what his superstars can do, and doesn’t need to be reminded in the kind of blowouts his team routinely racks up during pool play.
What he needs to find out is what would happen if they weren’t available, when the Americans were playing against teams that could beat them.
"You don’t know who it’s going to be that might help us win the gold medal," Krzyzewski said. "I mean, if you look at the gold-medal game against Spain in ’08, Tayshaun Prince gave us eight points in an abbreviated role that were huge for us, because LeBron and Kobe had two quick fouls each in that game.
"And you know if you don’t give these guys that level of experience over an extended period of time, then they may not be ready for those moments, so that’s what we’re trying to do."
With that in mind, Krzyzewski gave plenty of time to his subs on Tuesday in a 110-63 victory over Tunisia. Iguodala’s 20 minutes were one more than James played, while Bryant got on the floor for just 9 minutes, half the time Love received while tying for the team lead with 16 points.
The bench even started the second half, Krzyzewski insisting that was his plan all along and not that he was angry with the first unit. He will probably do plenty of tinkering today against the Nigerians.
Even without playing their best basketball, the Americans are big and bad as advertised — romping through their first two games at the London Olympics by an average of 37 points.
But is that reason to be afraid of them?
"I mean, listen, man, I’ve been playing ball for a long time," said Nigeria guard Tony Skinn, who was part of George Mason’s improbable Final Four run in 2006. "I don’t think we have that mentality to just come in the game and just, you know, get our (butts) whooped."