U.S. going into world games as the underdog

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U.S. going into world games as the underdog

NEW YORK - The United States will be underdogs at the world basketball championships in Turkey later this month because of a lack of height and international experience, the USA Basketball chairman said Saturday.

Jerry Colangelo conceded that the team bears little resemblance talent-wise to the Kobe Bryant and LeBron James-led squad that swept to Olympic gold two years ago in Beijing.

“It’s a different group, it’s a young group,” he told Reuters courtside before the U.S. met China in a tune-up at Madison Square Garden.

“We don’t have a lot of size up front. We lost some people who we were banking on. We lost size going in. But you deal with the cards that you’re dealt.”

New York Knicks center Amare Stoudemire decided not to play and injuries to Golden State forward David Lee and Phoenix center Robin Lopez have left the team with Tyson Chandler and Lamar Odom, the key players under the basket.

They are quality NBA big men but hardly offer the presence of Orlando Magic bruiser Dwight Howard, who passionately patrolled the paint for the U.S. Olympic squad in 2008. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led the team to Olympic gold in Beijing, admits this crew will need some breaks in Turkey to walk away with the FIBA title.

“Will it be harder than Beijing? Yes,” he said. “There is not as much room for error.”

“This team will have to use its coupons and go for sales a little bit. The Olympic team didn’t have to do that as much. But that’s OK.”

Krzyzewski still has to make three more cuts to get his team down to 12. Players in danger, like Washington Wizards center JaVale McGee and Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Gordon, will get another chance to impress the coach when the Americans face France in an exhibition Sunday.

Puerto Rico will take on China in the second game. The U.S. squad is made up entirely of NBA players and the unequivocal leader is Kevin Durant, the smooth-shooting 6-foot-9 (2.06m) Oklahoma City guard who led the league in scoring this year.

Durant knows how much teams love to topple the U.S.

“We’re always going to have a bull’s eye on our backs, and especially now since we won the Olympics,” he said.

Colangelo said the Americans are “shooting to win a world championship,” the first since 1994 when Shaquille O’Neal was named the MVP for the team dubbed “Dream Team II.”

“But it will be an uphill battle because we’re young and inexperienced,” he said. “We’re wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. But we are an athletic team that has a lot of versatility.”

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