Mike Krzyzewski Forced to Rely on Tyson Chandler as Injuries Plague Team USA Big Men


Mike Krzyzewski Forced to Rely on Tyson Chandler as Injuries Plague Team USA Big Men They say that bad news comes in threes — but for USA Basketball, it's sixes.

The national team has now lost six big men from its roster in the past month, taking a group that was already lopsidedly guard-oriented and forcing it to become even more so. The Americans were originally looking forward to a summer of playing the inside-out game — now they're just playing outside and more outside.

The latest casualty is Brook Lopez, who came down with mononucleosis last week and was dropped from coach Mike Krzyzewski's roster while he recovers from the illness. His replacement, JaVale McGee, is a prime candidate to be cut from the 15-man roster when Coach K trims down to 12 later this month. Team USA needs bigs to stay afloat, but it's slim pickings.

At this point, the last man standing might be … Tyson Chandler? Yikes.

The Americans lost Al Jefferson and LaMarcus Aldridge a month ago, when the two young bigs dropped out before the start of camp in Las Vegas. Amare Stoudemire then pulled out as well, as an insurance issue arose with his newly signed contract with the Knicks.

Then the injuries began. A finger injury to David Lee, a lower back ailment nagging at Robin Lopez. Then last Wednesday, down went the other Lopez.

A deep corps of big men has never been a requirement in the international game. Worldwide basketball competition is about speed, athleticism and spot-up shooters that can space the floor. You don't need the traditional setup with a center and a power forward manning the low post at all times — in fact, the gold medal-winning Americans at the 2008 Olympics survived with Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer as their only three post players.

But this year's slate of bigs is likely to be even thinner. If McGee is cut, and with power forwards Jeff Green and Kevin Love possibly on the chopping block as well, who's guaranteed to be on this roster and making an impact come late June? It's Chandler, and it's Lamar Odom. That's about it.

This certainly wasn't Plan A for Coach K. He had envisioned carrying a deeper corps of big men with him to Turkey this time, until the injury bug forced him to make other plans.

Chandler is now a lock to make Team USA. He's the third-oldest guy left on the roster, at 27, and he's not particularly athletic for his age. He's not a great shooter, either. Chandler's greatest strengths are his length and his ability to guard anyone in the high or low post — Coach K and the Americans will have to hope that's enough.

As for McGee, the Washington Wizard is 22 and still growing as a center at the pro level. He's still refining his scoring touch, still working on rebounding, still a bit of a liability on defense. It's questionable whether he's ready for Team USA.

Out of necessity, Coach K will be reexamining his philosophy with Team USA. He'll have to live with the fact that scoring in the paint, protecting the rim and crashing the boards will not be among his team's strengths.

If the Americans are to have a shot at Worlds, they'll have to get their scoring from Kevin Durant, their playmaking from Rajon Rondo and their shooting from Stephen Curry. And as for Chandler … well, they just have to hope he doesn't hurt them.

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