Team USA on Wednesday sized up the unique challenge of containing towering centre Yao Ming, China’s main threat in their hotly anticipated Olympic opener.
With none of the US superstars coming close to Yao’s seven-foot-six (2.3m) frame, the plan is simple: Close him down early and keep him running.
“Yao is such a huge, talented guy and he's the focal point of the offence, so I think we’re just going to have to take the challenge and play against him,” said Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh.
“You just try to do some odd things like meet him early. If he turns and shoots, you really can’t worry about trying to block it, you just contest it as good as you can.
“On offence you just run him and get him tired. We have this fast-break style of offence, so we’re going to try and wear him down with a lot of pick-and-roll.” The August 10 clash promises to be an early highlight of the Games with a cauldron atmosphere at the Olympic Gymnasium and millions following live across the giant nation.
Orlando Magic centre Dwight Howard said he relished the challenge of facing Yao in front of his home fans. “He’s playing in front of his home crowd so I’m pretty sure everybody is going to be excited to see that. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Howard said.
“He’s a great player. He’s one of the best centres in the game right now. I love playing against him.”
The Americans fended off comments about their height, which clocks in at an average of just over six foot six — a foot shorter than Yao.
“His stature’s pretty unique but I think guys are just really going with talent,” Bosh said.
“I think the most talented guys aren’t the biggest nowadays and probably the guy who is seven foot and 250 pounds is probably getting beaten by the guy who’s six-nine and 220 pounds.
“That’s just how it’s working, and the game is a lot different than it was 10 or 15 years ago.”
Coach Mike Krzyzewski also brushed off concerns about height. The USA face statuesque Turkey in a warm-up match here on Thursday. “We don’t have a small team, we have a quick team,” the coach said.
Ginobili rates US, Spain as top contenders
Nanjing (Southeast China): Emanuel Ginobili, guard of the reigning Olympic champion Argentina, has rated United States and Spain as best basketball teams participating in the Beijing Olympics.
Ginobili said that his team would face stiff competition in defending the title.
“Every game is difficult,” he said at a news briefing .
Argentina, which finished fourth at the 2006 World Championships, are considered as favourites for gold medal in Beijing. With head coach Sergio Hernandez being able to keep together the core of his team and players breaking into NBA in recent years, Argentina has been working to better the teamwork to beat the Americans and European powers.
Ginobli is the most well known of Argentina’s NBA players. His success with the San Antonio Spurs has established him as one of the world's premier players.
Aussies down China 67-55
Beijing: Australia manhandled Yao Ming-led China at the FIBA Diamond Cup in Nanjing on Wednesday, frustrating China in a lopsided 67-55 warm-up ahead of the Beijing Games.
The Boomers led by Milwaukee Buck Andrew Bogut and Melbourne Tiger Chris Anstey -- both 2.13 metres (seven feet) tall -- dominated the interior and used their size to force China into 25 turnovers.
Anstey led Australia with 11 points, while Bogut added nine.
Yao, in his fifth game back since being sidelined by a broken foot in February, had 14 points and seven rebounds for China, while former Dallas Maverick centre Wang Zhizhi only contributed four points.
New Jersey Nets' Yi Jianlian, China's other NBA player and Bogut's former Milwaukee teammate, was scoreless.