The 2012 USA Men's Basketball team has dominated headlines since the whole Dream Team comparison controversy.
After a swift dismissal of this notion among ex-Dream Teamers, as well as other analysts, the next question surrounding the squad is who is the go-to guy on Team USA?
With a team composed of several NBA All-Stars and some probably Hall of Famers, the question is more easily asked than answered. These superstars are playing in a style much different from the NBA, and they have to learn how to play with elite teammates.
The immediate names that come to mind are Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant. Bryant and James have been to the Olympics before, while Durant is making his debut.
Bryant's resume in the NBA is stacked with championships, MVP awards, and scoring titles. But in the Olympics, he has only one gold medal, as well. As a team leader, he is expected to do what has made him an NBA legend: hit clutch shots and make game-changing plays in the fourth quarter.
Bryant has started every exhibition game, but has averaged about 20 minutes. This can account for the decline in production, having scored just 35 points in the first four games Team USA has played, averaging just 8.8 points per game. This can be an intentional move of resting the 33-year-old guard before the actual Games begin, or it is an unprecedented move in limiting the aging superstars on the court presence in the favor of the younger guns.
While Bryant's time has been visibly reduced, Americans are witnessing a fierce battle between James and Durant for sole dominance of the team. The matchup is timeless: the two met in the NBA Finals last season, with James and the Heat coming out on top. Also noted is how James led Team USA to Olympic Gold in 2008 and how Durant led Team USA to World Championship Gold in 2010.
After the first four games, the two have received exactly the same amount of playing time, recording 101 minutes through four games, averaging 25.3 minutes per game, while James has started every game and Durant has just started two of four. With five more field goal attempts, Durant has made three more baskets than James, Durant posting 29-51 with a 56.9 field goal percentage and James notching 26-46 which is good for a 56.5 field goal percentage.
Where Durant separates himself is in the points category, he has scored 75 points in the four-game span, an average of 18.8 a game, while James is good for 68 points and an even 17 points per game. James is leading in assists, however with 13, compared to Durant's nine.
Given these statistics, and the fact that Durant carried the Men's National Team in 2010 to a gold medal, the Oklahoma City Thunder star looks like the most valuable player for the U.S. Durant is just 23, but he plays with intelligence and desire that is often needed when the Americans tend to underestimate their opponents.
For now, Durant might be the main guy at London, but this U.S. team is so stacked with talent that any player can decide to turn their game up a notch.