Not to worry. As skilled and imposing as Howard is, Krzyzewski explained, he isn't nearly as proficient at defending the pick-and-roll, a staple of the international game, as the leaner, quicker Chris Bosh.
Two months later, after helping the
But for fleeting moments Tuesday at the London Games, overmatched Tunisia, a speed-limit underdog (55 points) exposed some half-hearted U.S. defense.
The Americans not only corrected course but also nearly covered, cruising to a 110-63 victory. Still, Krzyzewski was not pleased when his squad allowed more 3-pointers in the opening five-plus minutes (three), than it did in 40 minutes Sunday against France (two).
Using the pick-and-roll to free shooters, Tunisia made 7-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first half and trailed by "only" 13 at intermission.
Krzyzewski promptly benched his five starters —
"In the second half our defense picked it up and did not give the open looks and created turnovers, which produced offense," Krzyzewski said during his postgame news conference.
But Krzyzewski insisted there was no message, overt or otherwise, sent with his mass substitution.
"We've done that before," he said. "My goal tonight was to try to get kind of an equal number of minutes for everybody in the game and to try some different combinations. …
"Like in Andre's case, he hadn't gotten as many minutes. Kevin Love is continuing to improve so we wanted to make sure he got his minutes.
The players saw more.
"He held us accountable for what we were doing out there,"
"In the first half we switched a lot (on screens)," Bryant said, "and I think because of it our defense was a little softer and gave them a lot more space. In the second half we came out and put bodies on bodies and put a lot of pressure on them."
As with all masterful coaches, Krzyzewski has won championships with (Duke 1992 and 2001) and without (Duke 1991 and 2010) the best talent. In the 2008
Still, in opening pool-play routs of France —
Against France, the U.S.'s whiplash ball movement produced an outrageous 27 assists on 31 field goals. The leader of the pack, with eight, was James, a three-time league MVP and newly minted NBA champion.
Tuesday the Americans assisted on 27-of-43 buckets, 17-of-24 after halftime. Krzyzewski said that's due, in part, to stability of coaching staff — he and assistants
"In Beijing, I had not coached those guys in the Olympics before," Krzyzewski added. "Now, I've coached five of them. And, I coached five of them in the (2010) World Championships in Istanbul, so there's a familiarity with our staff and our players, which lends itself to greater camaraderie and I think we have that on this team.
"Not that we didn't have good camaraderie in '08 and '10, but I think it's even better now."
National pride is paramount to Krzyzewski, a graduate of the
Not coincidentally, his players are out and about in London, supporting U.S. teams in other sports.
"Personally, what I try to do is raise the awareness of the other sports that don't get a lot of recognition," Bryant said during a news conference Sunday. "They've been training for four years as well and deserve all of our support. We get the bulk of the attention, but it's very important for us to not keep that attention on ourselves, but to try to deflect it to the other athletes who are training just as hard."
Grace and selflessness don't assure the U.S. a second consecutive gold medal. Lithuania and Argentina await in pool play, as might Spain in the medal round. Each could be formidable.
But thanks to Krzyzewski, the U.S. is far less vulnerable.
"We have a really good bond with one another," Iguodala said. "Everything is a team setting. … We're trying to build chemistry and that team feeling, and being together does that. So those are the moments that we're all going to cherish when we're done playing basketball."