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Point well made: Team USA needs gifted guards

You could view it as overkill: Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Deron Williams. That's a lot of point guards for one 12-man basketball team.
USA Basketball Senior National Team Training Day 1
Having a basketball magician like Jason Kidd, who can manufacture possibilities on the court, where none seem to exist is a huge benefit for Team USA, writes Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy. Ethan Miller / Getty Images file
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You could view it as overkill: Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Deron Williams. That's a lot of point guards for one 12-man basketball team.

There are some items in sports, though, you want in quantity: pitching, pass rushers, trips to the Maui Invitational and tall magicians who can manufacture possibilities on the court where none seems to exist.

Kidd started for the United States senior national team in Friday's pre-Olympic execution -- I mean, exhibition -- of Canada at the Thomas & Mack Center. Paul replaced him and Williams joined Paul in the backcourt for most of that time, and their chemistry ignited the run that culminated in a 120-65 victory.

Asking whether coach Mike Krzyzewski can make use of all three is like asking whether I'd like to have dinner with Jennifer Anniston, Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Love-Hewitt.

The U.S. is making up for so many pointless Olympics. The recent history of American basketball has been one of too often leaving the truly gifted point guards at home -- and returning with a medal no one really wants.

In 1988, there was not a single elite point guard on the roster and thus no reason to be surprised at the bronze result. In 2004 Stephon Marbury and his crew struck bronze again. The problem has been the same at the junior levels, also.

This approach would be the equivalent of sending Rex Grossman to an Olympic football competition. (Which the U.S. might win, anyway, since hardly anyone else plays the game).
The one advantage American basketball always has enjoyed over the rest of the world is the creative point guard. The game was invented here, and then Bob Cousy reinvented it, and then Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas and John Stockton and Gary Payton reinvented the reinvention.

Until Tony Parker came along, there never had been a point guard from beyond these shores who could gain admission to the club of the heavy-hitting point guards -- and even he is more a wizard at opening scoring opportunities for himself. Playing with Tim Duncan, Parker never has averaged seven assists. That's a good half for Paul.

So nearly as important as the decision to form a true national team program instead of just a quadrennial pickup team was the move to ensure this team is led by the best candidates at the game's most important position.

Kidd is the starter and the definitive team leader. He did not take a shot, did not score and did not pass for an assist in this game, but he's enough of a veteran to know facing Canada was only the start of a long process in building toward the Beijing Games.

There is an exciting dynamic when Paul and Williams play together. They combined for 25 points, 13 assists and 9-of-13 shooting. Each one did a great job creating room for shooter Michael Redd and delivering passes that allowed him to pull the trigger quickly; Redd made 6-of-8 from 3-point range and scored 20 points. The two point guards' play together largely was responsible for an overwhelming U.S. surge in the decisive second quarter.

"Either one of them can bring the ball up, and either one of them can pressure the ball," Krzyzewski said. "The intelligence of your team is at the highest level when you have two guys like that on the court at the same time.

"I was just telling them that needs to be a strength of our team. When the two of them are in together, we can pick up a little bit better, try to wear some people down."

Krzyzewski said he prefers to think of his team as having excellent guard play, rather than point guard play, because there'll be so many minutes when Paul and Williams play in tandem.

No, we're going to stick with point guard.

It's taken too long for this to become a priority for U.S. basketball.

No reason to give it up now.