Coach K chooses three captains for Team USA

by Kaz Nagatsuka

SAPPORO — Even for mighty Coach K, it may have been too hard to choose just one man.

No problem, Mike Krzyzewski just rewarded all three of his best players.

U.S. basketball coach Krzyzewski named LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony as team captains on Friday.

They were the team’s top three scorers in its five warmup games, as Anthony averaged 16.8 points per game, James had 15.8, and Wade had 12.2.

“From the start they have asserted themselves and showed leadership through how hard they worked,” Krzyzewski said after his team’s workout at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center. “They didn’t come in as stars, they came in as members of the team.”

Anthony seemed pleased with the appointments.

“I, LeBron and Dwyane are very honored,” the Denver Nuggets forward said Friday after practice. “We know what we have to do to succeed. I know it means more responsibilities, so we have to go out there and take care of business on and off the court.”

The leadership, Krzyzewski said, is par for the course with the youthful American lineup.

“The team is composed of young players, mostly of the early 20s,” he said. “However, they have been well trained through playing with other countries so far, they are familiar with more speed and defense.

“Through the practice toward to this World Championship, our players got to know each other, and now we have strong confidence.”

While many feel the U.S. team is definitely the favorite to win Group D, and the Americans have a blockade of media in tow, China appears to have even more reporters digging around for information.

At the mixed zone, hordes of journalists gathered, trying to get their compatriots’ comments, mainly of star center Yao Ming.

The 226-cm Yao, still recovering from a broken left foot he suffered in April, stopped to speak to the media, but there wasn’t a smile on his face.

“I’m recovering from injury, but it’s not as fast as I expected, and I don’t have much stamina yet,” Yao said. “(But) we Chinese will try our best, and we are confident of making the round of 16.”

China coach Jonas Kazlauskas would not reveal the starting five for the squad’s first game against Italy on Saturday, leaving Yao’s role unclear.