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Gold Medal Serves As Inspiration For USA Men's Team

  • Author:
    Steve Silverman
  • Date:
    Jul 29, 2016

Chicago, Illinois

It’s a powerhouse of a team that head coach Mike Krzyzewski will have at his disposal when the USA men's team heads to Rio de Janeiro next month to compete for Olympic gold.

The players on Coach K’s team are among the best in the NBA, even though LeBron James and Steph Curry will not be there.

Soon-to-be four-time Olympian Carmelo Anthony is on the team and so is two-time Olympian Kevin Durant. All-Star Paul George is back and part of the talent-ladened roster even though he broke his leg in a USA Basketball exhibition in 2014.

USA’s roster also includes NBA All-Stars Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar DeRozan, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry and Klay Thompson. DeAndre Jordan, a 2016 all-NBA first team center, is also on the team and so is Harrison Barnes, who was part of Golden State's 2015 NBA Championship Team and a member of this season's NBA Finals squad.

These players have all tasted the riches and glory of life in the NBA, but competing in the Olympics will give them an opportunity for something more.

“I was two years old when the Dream Team won the gold medal,” Green said. “But I know all about that team and what they did for the country and for the game of basketball.

“To have a chance to play for a gold medal, that’s why we’re here. It means a lot and it’s a strong motivator for myself and I think it’s the same for everyone here.”

Chicago Bulls guard Butler, who is preparing to play before his hometown fans at Chicago's United Center Friday night against Venezuela, says the team is taking shape and that the experience is a great one.

“We are all coming together as a team and we are all getting along as a team,” Butler said. “It’s not about any one of us as individual players. It’s about working together and learning how we can all be at our best when we are in Rio.”

Butler said that he had never even given winning a gold medal serious consideration in the past.

"I never expected to play for a gold medal being from Tomball, Texas," Butler said. "Moving forward, that's my goal. That's what every one of the guys on this roster wants. We're fighting for that.

"It's cool being on the same team as some of the best players in the world, watching them go at it and compete even in practice. There’s something new to learn every day.”

USA & TAPS Join Forces At Thursday's Practice 
The USA’s Thursday practice session at the United Center featured youngsters and family member from T.A.P.S. (Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors). All of the individuals associated with that organization have lost a loved one in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It is a program that has been in effect for 22 years but we are kind of embracing it now to bring a little more attention to it,” Krzyzewski said. General Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led the group on its sojourn to the practice session. General Dempsey also address the USA Team during its morning team meeting.

USA Basketball's partnership with the TAPS will see USA Men's and Women's National Teams host more than 350 TAPS youth participants and their families at events in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Bridgeport and Houston during the 2016 USA Basketball Showcase presented by Verizon. In addition to tickets to Showcase events, USA Basketball has partnered with the teams4taps program, which provides meaningful opportunities for surviving family members to engage with sports teams and athletes, to have more than 75 surviving military children serve as ball kids and anthem buddies, standing with the USA national team players during national anthem performances.

Statistically Speaking
Durant is the team’s leading scorer through its first three exhibition games, averaging 18.3 ppg.  Cousins is right behind averaging a double-double of 15.7 points and a team-best 11.0 rebounds per game. Anthony, who needs just 34 point to become the USA's all-time leading scorer in the Olympics, is averaging 14.0 points and has made 10-of-22 tries from 3-point, while Thompson is scoring at a 13.7 points per game clip.

USA - Venezuela Series History Lesson
The U.S. and Venezuela, who will play in Olympic preliminary play on August 8, have never met in Olympic play. However, the famed 1992 USA “Dream Team” defeated Venezuela 127-80 in the gold medal game of the 1992 Tournament of the Americas which served as the 1992 Barcelona Olympics qualifying tournament for the Americas Zone. The USA went on to finish 8-0 and won gold, while Venezuela finished in 11th place with a 2-5 record. The surprise winner of the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, Venezuela features a balanced attack. Guard Jon Cox, who played collegiately at the University of San Francisco, scored 14 points in his team monumental 76-71 win over Argentina in the FIBA Americas final and averaged a team-leading 12.2 points for the 10 games. Guard Heissler Guillent, who has recovered from a Achilles tendon injury, pumped in 15 points in the win over Argentina and averaged 8.1 points and 3.3 assists. Venezuela’s lone NBA player is Greivis Vazquez (Brooklyn Nets) who played collegiately at the University of Maryland.

Marquette University Connection
Venezuela 5-foot-11 guard David Cubillan and the USA's Butler played together for two seasons (2008-10) at Marquette University, helping MU to the NCAA tournament both seasons. Cubillan, who played 2006-10 and was a four-year letter winner, compiled 642 career points and 255 assists. Butler, over the course of his three seasons (2008-11), tallied 1,277 points.

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