Basketball team to go at full speed in Barcelona

BARCELONA, Spain Sat Jul 21, 2012 12:04pm EDT

1 of 7. Olympic basketball player Kobe Bryant stretches during a training session at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, July 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Albert Gea

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BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Kobe Bryant, who has said the 2012 U.S. Olympic basketball team could beat the 1992 Dream Team, issued a safer guarantee when the Americans hit the practice floor on Saturday for upcoming warm-up games against Argentina and Spain.

Argentina, winners of the 2004 Olympic gold medal, and Spain, silver medalists behind the U.S. in Beijing four years ago, will face a full speed effort from the Americans, vowed high-scoring guard Bryant, part of the 2008 team.

"We're competing hard every time we step on the floor," said five-times National Basketball Association champion Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The United States, led by LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Bryant, play Argentina on Sunday at Palau Sant Jordi and reprise the 2008 Beijing gold medal match against Spain on Tuesday.

Argentina are spearheaded by San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili and Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola.

Spain feature a towering front court trio of Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Gasol brothers, Marc of the Memphis Grizzlies and Pau, a Lakers team mate of Bryant.

"For Argentina and Spain, those guys have played big bulk minutes. Pau will be playing a big chunk of minutes, Ginobili will be playing a big chunk of minutes.

"Here, I don't play that much. Maybe 20 minutes or so. It's the same thing for most of (our) guys. When we go out there, we go out there and go hard. Go hard, sit down, bring in the next guy and let him go hard."

The U.S. team have played three exhibitions so far in preparation for the London Games, beating the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Britain. The Barcelona contests will be their best measuring stick yet.

"I think we're getting there," Bryant said. "I think it's a process. These two games coming up will be good indicators for us in terms of where we are."

With the U.S. team coming to Barcelona on the 20th anniversary of the Dream Team's romp to gold in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics led by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, questions comparing the teams were inevitable.

U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was an assistant coach with the illustrious 1992 Dream Team, refused to be drawn in.

"We're concentrating on playing Argentina," he said before practice. "Those hypothetical type things are something I do in the summer at the beach with my family. Not when I'm coaching the U.S. team."

He said Argentina demanded their attention.

"They are one of the top international teams. They have two of the greatest international players of all time in Ginobili and Scola," he said. "You start by trying to defend them. It will be a good test for us."

(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Martyn Herman; For all the latest Olympic news go to here)

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