Olympic Basketball: Paul, Williams dueling
LAS VEGAS ó Deron Williams and Chris Paul have been linked since the 2005 NBA draft, when Utah chose Williams third overall, one slot ahead of Paul, taken by New Orleans.
Now the question is whether Paul can move ahead of Williams and into the No. 2 point guard position on Team USA behind Jason Kidd.
It’s one of the story lines playing out behind the closed doors of training camp at Valley High School. Williams and Paul are longtime friends, but both want to play as many minutes as possible in Beijing. They’re trying to smile through the inevitable questions about the competition.
“I didn’t know it was a big deal,” Williams said. “We’re going for the same thing, and that’s a gold medal. Point blank, that’s all we care about is winning the gold. So it doesn’t matter.”
Paul dismissed questions about who will be Kidd’s main backup. “We’re on the same team,” Paul said. “I’m not battling against him to do anything. If we’re all out here battling, we have a problem if we want to win a gold medal.”
Upgrading the point was perhaps the Americans’ top priority after their bronze medal showing at the 2006 world championships.
They added Kidd, the lone member of this team with an Olympic gold medal. They also added Williams and subtracted Kirk Hinrich.
And they kept Paul, whose Team USA future seemed cloudy after he lost the starting job during the 2006 world championships.
“That’s obviously our strongest position, because we have three guys who can play it,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Paul started six games in Japan two summers ago, and he dished out 44 assists, a U.S. record for the world championships. But the 6-foot, 170-pound Paul struggled against taller, more physical players, and he seemed a long shot to make the Olympic team.
LAS VEGAS ó LeBron James’ teammates have their own guarantee: They’ll help the U.S. star try to back up his boast.
And none seemed to have much trouble with James’ promise of an Olympic gold medal, which appeared in a Time magazine story that hits newsstands Friday.
“You know what, I’ve never really understood the big deal about guaranteeing a win,” Dwyane Wade said after practice. “I mean, we all feel we’re going to win.”
“We don’t have a choice but to win gold. That’s what we’re here for, so I believe in our team and I believe in what we can do out there,” James said.