RIO DE JANEIRO -- Even after two gold medals as a head coach and one as an assistant, Mike Krzyzewski has been telling his players they will experience something as equally special Friday night.
"The opening ceremonies is a showcase for sport worldwide," Krzyzewski said Thursday after Team USA's introductory news conference at the Rio Games. "It's a celebration of every sport, from every country, under one roof. It's the most beautiful thing in the world, and it happens once every four years.
"I think there's no greater honor and no greater day than tomorrow. For all these athletes."
These Olympics began in earnest for Krzyzewski and his squad on Wednesday, when they arrived in Rio via Houston and boarded the cruise ship that will serve as the home for both the men's and women's basketball teams for the next two weeks.
"It's like a hotel on water," said Team USA star Kevin Durant.
Thursday's half-hour session with the world's media was next, followed by a Friday morning practice session in advance of Saturday night's Group A opener against China.
Most team insiders expect Coach K to go with Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson at guard, Kevin Durant and Paul George at forward and DeMarcus Cousins at center, but Krzyzewski insists he hasn't yet settled on a starting lineup.
Such details, to the coach, appear to fall on the trivial side, especially after the Americans throttled Yi Jianlian-led China by 49 and 50 points, respectively, in recent back-to-back exhibitions in California.
On Thursday, Krzyzewski was far more concerned that his 10 first-time Olympians -- Chicago's Jimmy Butler, Dallas' Harrison Barnes, Golden State's Draymond Green and Thompson, Toronto's Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, Cleveland's Irving, Indiana's George, Sacramento's Cousins and the Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan -- were soaking up every moment of a scene they'll never experience anywhere else.
"Tomorrow during the opening ceremonies they'll feel that even more," Krzyzewski said. "I think our guys already understand it to a high level. But after they march tomorrow, they'll understand it to an even higher level. And then see what that does to our performance in the first game. I'm looking forward to seeing how we react that way."
Said Jordan: "Amazing. Never seen a press conference this big. It's something I really can't describe or put into words. And I'm sure [the opening ceremonies] will be another shocking moment for me."
Added Butler: "It's not the 15 reporters after a Chicago Bulls game. All the eyes of the world are on you right now. It's cool. I like it."
What's not to like?
The Americans, despite a slew of high-profile absentees, are overwhelming favorites to win a third successive gold medal, with both Spain and France -- widely regarded as the only two nations capable of giving Team USA a push -- coming off major disappointments in their own countries.
Spain failed to even reach the medal round on home soil as hosts and co-favorites in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, when the United States fielded a weakened and largely untested roster. France then had to settle for bronze at EuroBasket 2015 on French soil when it lost to the Spaniards in the semifinals.
The Americans, by contrast, have the sort of depth to make every other hoops-playing country in the world drool. The team is a 1-to-20 favorite to win gold, according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, despite the absences of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis.
Yet Krzyzewski insisted Thursday that he's as "nervous as I can be" about Team USA living up to the billing. He has been trying as hard as he can to keep the group grounded.
Not easy when Team USA has won 68 games in a row under Krzyzewski, including exhibitions, taking his record to 80-1 since he succeeded Larry Brown as the Yanks' head coach in the wake of an embarrassing bronze-medal showing at the Athens Games in 2004.
"Everyone says you're [already] in the medal round," Krzyzewski said. "Well ... no you're not. You have to earn your way there.
"Nothing is easy. And when somebody tells you it's easy, or you're the best, or whatever ... it can put you in a comfort zone that you actually believe that. The one thing about competition is that you have to show it. We can talk about it -- or people can talk about it -- [but] we would like to show it with our play. And hopefully we'll be that good."
He hasn't been alone in trying to preach that message. The New York Knicks' Anthony was on that 2004 squad and doesn't hesitate to remind his teammates or reporters of how low that moment was.
"I know what it felt like when the rest of the world was supposedly catching up with the USA as far as from a basketball standpoint," Anthony said. "So I know what it feels like to be at the bottom and I know what it feels like to be at the top of the game as well. So for me to be able to be here, representing the USA for my fourth time, saying it's an honor, [saying] it's a blessing, is an understatement."
This collection of NBA stars from the United States, especially when they're measured against the rest of the competition, seems to be missing only one thing.
A collective nickname.
Yet Anthony said he'd work on that, too.
"I haven't [given] us a name yet," Melo said. "I'm gonna figure it out, though."