For the first time in LeBron James's career, his statistical numbers are not reflecting his overall importance and legitimate imprint on a team. Is it shocking? Very, but perhaps it speaks to a more intriguing point about the makeup of this 2012 USA basketball team. Team USA is nearly impossible to prepare for.
Normally there is a head of the snake, a person who will likely stir the ship and is the focal point of a teams defensive strategy. That isn't the case for USA, who's roster is over-saturated with elite scorers, athletic phenomenas and play-makers. It's become coined as the "eye test". Lebron James may score 2 points or 30 points, collect double digist assists or only a pair but simply put, it's irrelevant. His presence and role on this team has been established and as USA begins its journey for a gold medal today, LeBron James seems poised and aware of the weight that may rest on his shoulders.
Since the start of the exhibition and preliminary games, team USA has looked like the overwhelming favorite. Committing on both ends of the floor, utilizing their superior athletic abilities, USA has shown glimpses of an additional gear they can reach when completely locked in and committed. What has also caught the eye of many, is the apparent leadership, overall impact and visible control LeBron James has demonstrated on team USA.
"That's what we need from him and we were actually talking about it. We need LeBron to be the best basketball player on both ends of the floor like he is during the regular season" - Deron Williams said
"He's what 6 or 7 inches taller than me and maybe 60 pounds more than me, and he can do everything with the ball that I can do. Almost" - Chris Paul Said
In their most recent game against rival Argentina, USA struggled for the first 2 quarters, allowing Manu Ginobili to lead the Argentines to 58% shooting. USA sported just a 1 point lead by halftime but following a speech from Chris Paul and Coach Krzyzewski's 2nd half adjustment, USA would put on a defensive clinic, holding Argentina to just 29 points through the final 2 quarters. Ginobili had scored 16 in the first 2 quarters but was held scoreless in the 2nd half.
But it wasn't just the defensive intensity that changed the complexity of the game, it was the offensive assertiveness from LeBron James, who opened the half with 7 straight points that elevated USA to an eventual blowout victory. Coach Krzyzewski spoke about his adjustments that he implemented at halftime:
"I wanted to start the 2nd half going to him in the post and he responded. LeBron has been sort of are quarterback on defense" - Mike Krzyzewski said
As we get ready for the elimination round to begin today, here's a look at the cumulative statistics from the 5 preliminary games for team USA. The Olympic quarterfinals will air today at 5:15 eastern on NBC, where team USA will take on Australia.
1. Kevin Love - 6.4
2. Kevin Durant - 5.6
3. Tyson Chandler - 5.2
1. Chris Paul - 5.8
2. Deron Williams - 5.6
3. LeBron James - 4.4
1. Chris Paul - 2.2
2. Kevin Durant - 1.8
3. LeBron James - 1.6