Skip to main content

Amico: Kyrie keeping control of Team USA

  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Sometimes, it looks like the United States Olympic basketball team doesn't even need Kyrie Irving.

It's not like the Americans have been challenged. They rolled past China by a 106-57 count Sunday in Los Angeles -- and that happened just a few nights after bouncing Argentina by 34.

Both were only exhibitions, but they resembled the type of basketball laughers usually staged by the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals.

So star point guards on a team with the likes of Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George? Who needs 'em?

The answer is Team USA, that's who.

Irving came off the bench to score 10 points on an efficient 4-of-6 shooting Sunday. He passed for four assists. He finished one of his vintage layups in traffic that had the Staples Center crowd pumping its fists.

He was the Irving who Cavaliers fans have come to know and adore, the Irving who played a major role in lifting the Cavs to the their first championship in June.

Mostly, it's the job of Irving and Kyle Lowry to glue it all together. They must bring U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski's game plan to life. They must make sure everyone is getting shots, everyone is happy, everyone is performing as a unit.

It sounds fairly simple. It's not like Irving is lining up next to basketball's version of the Bad News Bears.

This is a team filled with some of the NBA's brightest stars. A few are rising stars, so there are plenty of guys in Red, White and Blue who could believe it's their right to shoot, shoot and shoot.

That hasn't been close to the case so far. Just the opposite.

Scroll to Continue

Read More


In Sunday's win, only Klay Thompson (17 points) reached 10 field-goal attempts. DeAndre Jordan (12 points) and Anthony were next with nine attempts apiece, and Durant (19) and DeMar DeRozan (13) finished with seven apiece.

But Irving and Lowry combined for just eight.

Irving especially knows the importance of playing alongside stars. He's on a team with LeBron James, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith. All need decent looks at the basket.

So for Irving, this is nothing new.

He played for Krzyzewski at Duke and with Team USA in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The Americans won the gold there and Irving captured tournament MVP. He knows what's expected, how to keep everyone in tune, how to make the right play and how to make winning plays.

He proved it during the remarkable Game 7 win over the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

He proved it during his previous stab at international play.

And with the Rio Olympics just a few weeks away, Irving is again showing he understands his role. He understands it's about the team.

"We're young, but we've got a bunch of seasoned pros," Irving told reporters in LA. "We've been on a lot of journeys, and we've crossed paths before. But now we're all coming together at the right time."

Irving's commitment to teamwork and locker room cohesion has a lot to do with that.