July 6, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Team USA guard Kobe Bryant (right) speaks to guard Russell Westbrook during practice at the UNLV Mendenhall Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Kobe Bryant: Russell Westbrook can fill Dwyane Wade void in Olympics

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The roster for Team USA Basketball was revealed last Saturday night. The Oklahoma City Thunder became the first ever NBA team to send three players to represent the United States in Olympic basketball.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden all made the final cut for Team USA. Westbrook and Harden got in thankful in part to the absences of players like Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade.

Kobe Bryant is excited for these Olympics and thinks very highly about his teammates that will be playing with him.

“I think (Russell) Westbrook gets D-Wade’s role for us,” Kobe told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He pushes the ball and gets to the rim and can defend all over the floor. One thing D-Wade did for us was extend possessions for us and create steals that resulted in a lot of easy run-out baskets for us. Russell’s just as good at doing that.”

In 2008 in Beijing, Wade was the sixth man for Team USA and led the team in scoring at 16.0 points per game as the team won Gold.

Westbrook made another big improvement this season in the NBA. He was fifth in the NBA in scoring helping lead the Thunder to the NBA Finals where he had a 43-point game in Game 4.

Westbrook receives a lot of criticism for playing the point guard position the way he does for the Thunder. Defenders of Westbrook often make the point that if Wade played point guard for the Heat, we’d be saying the same thing about him.

Westbrook is a lot like Wade in terms of where he fits in the NBA landscape at this age. Playing for Team USA, Westbrook will probably not be playing any point guard and will be more comfortable even as an off guard, playing the passing lanes and slashing on offense.

Wade would have definitely helped Team USA if he were playing in the Olympics but they probably won’t miss too much with a guy like Westbrook ready to step up.

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Tags: 2012 Olympics Dwyane Wade Kobe Bryant Russell Westbrook Team USA Basketball

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