Americans say big deal to questions about size

Updated: July 22, 2008, 3:53 AM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- The United States says being a little small is really no big deal.

Especially since Dwight Howard is feeling like Superman again.

The Americans opened training camp Monday with their 12-man roster that features only one true center, out to prove that in this case, size doesn't matter.

"It's not a concern really. We all play basketball and that's what it's about," said Chris Bosh, a power forward for the Toronto Raptors who could end up as a backup center in the Olympics.

"If you look at other teams that play in other countries, I think we have a good post player for their post players. Their 5s move out a lot, they shoot the ball a little bit. I mean it really goes hand in hand with everything. We're talented enough to make that small adjustment."

It could mean multiple adjustments. Besides shifting Bosh and Utah's Carlos Boozer to the center spot, LeBron James will also change from his normal NBA position, taking the power forward spot instead of his usual small forward one.

At least the Americans have Howard back where they want him.

The team's lone center is recovered from a stress fracture to the sternum that sidelined him for practice last month, and he participated in the opening of a four-day training camp on Monday. Howard seemed a bit winded after his first 5-on-5 workout since the NBA playoffs, when the Orlando Magic star got hurt against the Detroit Pistons.

"I feel real good out there," Howard said after the closed workout at Valley High School. "I didn't have any problems. I'm looking to get in better shape. I'm just ready to go.

"It feels good just to be able to play again and knowing that it could have been a lot worse," said Howard, who donned a Superman cape to win the NBA All-Star slam-dunk contest.

Howard, who has played in 25 games for the Americans, downplayed concerns about the team's depth in the front court.

"We really don't need a lot of big men," Howard said. "We've got some of the greatest players in the world on our team. We know what we've got to do to control the paint."

The Americans expected to have additional big man help in camp, but learned over the weekend that 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler has an inflamed big toe and will not be available as an alternate. He had been invited to train with the team to keep him prepared in case there was an injury that forced another player off the roster.

"Dwight looked really good," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I asked him afterwards if he experienced any pain. He said no, no hesitation. Obviously, his wind, even though he's been running, it's different when you're playing defense like that."

When they selected the team, the Americans favored shooting and athleticism over size. Krzyzewski said he's not concerned about being short of big men.

"We feel comfortable with Boozer, Bosh (and Howard)," Krzyzewski said.

Krzyzewski said he's prepared to move the 6-foot-8 James to power forward at times. James will start at small forward, but Krzyzewski wants to take advantage of his 250-pound frame and his ability to guard bigger players.

"When we selected this team -- LeBron is a very unique player," Krzyzewski said. "You don't want to pigeon-hole him and say he's the three. That would be not making effective use of him."

When he's starring for the Cleveland Cavaliers, James spends much of his time on the perimeter. But he said he can adjust, and he expects his teammates to do the same.

"We may get to the point where we guard bigger guys that we don't usually guard because we play on the perimeter a lot," James said. "But as far as us going out and competing, it shouldn't change our role."

Howard said his injury was extremely painful, although he managed to play two games in the playoffs afterward.

"It felt like a heart attack," Howard said. "I wanted to win. I tried not to think about it as much as I could. It was bothering me a lot. There was a lot of days and practices and games where I couldn't even lift my arm up. But I just tried to push through it."

Howard reported no problems after a physical full-court workout against a select team of young NBA players.

"That's what we like to see, guys coming out and being very physical," Howard said. "When we play in the Olympics, everybody's going to be very physical against us."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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