Miami Heat news: LeBron James' versatility could include Olympic time at center

With their 2012 NBA championship, the Miami Heat added currency to coach Erik Spoelstra 's notion of "position-less basketball."

Now, one of  his players has exported it to the Olympics, with LeBron James not only a starting forward for USA Basketball, but also cast as the team's backup center behind Tyson Chandler, the lone true center on the 12-player United States roster.

To James, it is an extension of the Heat's title run, which, ironically, included time defending Chandler when the Heat faced the Knicks in the opening round.

"It's nothing new for me. I do the same thing in Miami," James said to a pool reporter amid the United States' exhibition tour, with their Olympic opener Sunday in London against France. "I take the challenge against a lot of bigger guys, just try to use my approach to the defensive end and just try to help our team win."

That had the Most Valuable Player of both the NBA regular season and NBA Finals playing at center in Tuesday's victory over Spain in Barcelona, with Chandler finding himself in early foul trouble.

"It's going to happen," James said of the inevitability of Olympic minutes at center. "We're not the tallest team, but that doesn't bother us at all. We got a lot of guys that play above their height. It's not about height. It's about the determination inside is what gets you there."
 
Nicknamed "One Through Five" by Spoelstra because of his ability to defend all five positions and also play out of the post, James routinely took minutes in the power rotation during the Heat's championship run, particularly after power forward Chris Bosh was sidelined for three weeks by a lower-abdominal strain.

With Bosh pulling out of the Olympics to fully heal from that injury, and with teammate Dwyane Wade sidelined from his Olympic commitment following recent arthroscopic knee surgery, it leaves James as the lone member of the Heat at the London Games.

Olympic forward Kevin Durant, whose Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Heat in the NBA Finals, saw plenty of LeBron in a power role in that series and has no concerns with James having to do it again for USA Basketball in the Olympics.

"He's a big strong guy," Durant said. "He can pass so well out of the zone. He's a weapon in the middle of that zone if they go there, kick out to shooters. We got guys who can do a variety of things on that floor, but we all got to play our role and LeBron is doing the world. He's passing, he's rebounding, he's being asked to defend bigger guys and he's doing a great job."

The United States went undefeated in its pre-Olympic tour, with victories over the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Great Britain, Argentina and Spain, truly challenged only in what turned into a six-point victory over Argentina.

James said the United States still can reach another level, with coach Mike Krzyzewski saying the team likely will use pool play to sharpen its game in advance of the knockout round that begins in the quarterfinals.

"We haven't shown all our cards yet," James said. "We have so many options and so many things we can go to with our team . . . and we got more cards to show.

"We still got time. We still got a couple more days before we actually open up, but our chemistry is really good right now; our cohesiveness is improving. We'll be ready once the Games begin."


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