Team USA Basketball 2012: Stars Who Will Shine in Opener
Team USA opens group play at the London Olympics on Sunday against France, and while the Americans are heavily favored, France isn't exactly a pushover.
The French team have plenty of NBA talent, so Team USA's stars are going to have to shine for them to win.
The question is, who will take the lead on Sunday? You can never really be sure with such a star-studded roster, but based on the matchups, here are four stars that I predict will have a big game against France.
Team France is led by San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker. As such, Team USA's point guards will be watched closely by the fans and media.
Chris Paul is up to the challenge. Not only is he the NBA's best point guard, but his Clippers got absolutely eviscerated by Parker's Spurs in the playoffs.
This time, CP3 is the one with the unstoppable juggernaut of a team behind him.
Considering how competitive he is, it's certain that Paul will want to put on a show against Parker as revenge for what happened earlier this year.
Parker is also coming into the Games injured. If the damage to his eye is as bad as he says, it could be a disaster for France. You need every inch of court vision you can get against Chris Paul.
CP3 vs. Tony Parker should be the featured matchup of this game. Expect a ton of buzz to surround the two stars, but Paul should be able to win this one handily.
It's almost cheating to say LeBron will dominate at this point. He's just so much better than everyone else on the court that it's unfair.
Having said that, France has one defender who could probably succeed in guarding James, and that's Portland Trail Blazers star Nicolas Batum.
The problem is, Team USA's small-ball lineup will likely force Batum to guard Kevin Durant (in some ways, a harder task), which will leave James to France's big men.
That doesn't look good for France. The team's two starters are bona fide NBA scrubs Ronny Turiaf and the human turnstile Boris Diaw. Good luck defending LeBron with those guys.
Even if Kevin Love isn't happy with his minutes, it won't take him many to tear up Turiaf or Diaw. The NBA's best power forward should absolutely eat them alive.
In any other game, this wouldn't be a major problem. France actually has pretty strong big men compared to most teams in the Olympics, but against Team USA, they're woefully outgunned.
Neither Anthony Davis nor Tyson Chandler is particularly offensively inclined, so expect coach Mike Krzyzewski to try to use Love to exploit France's relative lack of size.
Even if he only plays a few minutes, expect Love to dominate when he's on the floor. The matchup sets up too nicely for him not to.
Even though Tyson Chandler will likely get most of the minutes that Coach K has allocated to a defensive big man, Anthony Davis is the one with the most potential to do something great.
His propensity for blocking shots combined with Tony Parker's love of getting to the basket, and the incredible help on defense he'll get from LeBron James, should lead to some of the coolest highlight-reel blocks we've seen in the Olympic Games.
Like Love, don't expect Davis to play a ton of minutes. He's on this list simply for his highlight potential.
Considering Team USA's status as the undisputed favorite, I'd say that counts as shining.
By the way, Blake Griffin would have made this list if here were healthy. I'd love to see his interpretation of this amazing dunk.