Miami Heat LeBron James on the ball at the 2012 London Olympics

On a roster featuring All-Star point guards Chris Paul and Deron Williams, it was LeBron James who led the United States in assists in Sunday's Olympic opener.

Expected to often be featured in a power role on a USA Basketball roster that counts only Tyson Chandler as a true center, James instead thrived on the perimeter, closing with a team-high eight assists in Sunday's 98-71 victory over medal-hopeful France in London.

The eight assists by the Miami Heat forward were only two fewer than the entire roster of France, which featured former Heat players Ronny Turiaf and Yakhouba Diawara.

James finished with nine points, eight assists and five rebounds in playing 25 minutes of the 40-minute game.

Next closest in assists for the United States was Williams, with six. Paul had five.

"We just want to continue our ball movement," James told the pool reporter following the victory. "That's always number one. We want to continue to defend at a high level and also rebounding.  If we do those three things, we give ourselves a great chance to win every game."

Included in James' effort were several spectacular assists.

"It was a good game for us," he said. "The best thing about it is we moved the ball. We had a lot of assists and we moved the ball and we rebounded. When we rebound, we're a really good team because we can get out in the open floor and make some plays happen."

U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said it should not come as a surprise that someone other than a point guard led his team in assists, with scorers such as James and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant also able to serve as playmakers.

"I don't see us being a non-point guard offense," Krzyzewski said in defense of Paul and Williams. "LeBron and Kobe are guys that need to create. It takes a little bit away from Chris and Deron's game and we want them to assert themselves even a little bit more."

James had only two fouls, but other teammates came closer to the international limit of five.

"We fouled a little bit too much for our liking so if we can cut that down, we'll be better," he said.

The next game for James and the U.S. Olympic team is Tuesday against Tunisia.


Comments