Who doesn’t love gold?
Certainly America’s best basketball players do. Which is why virtually every player who was asked to commit to the USA Basketball men’s national team over the next three years said ‘Yes” when asked to participate in the upcoming Olympic cycle, which begins this summer with the FIBA World Cup in Spain. The winner of that tournament receives an automatic spot in the 2016 Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Twenty-eight players were listed Thursday as the official announcement was made by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Included are 11 of the 12 members of the gold medal squad that won at the 2012 Olympics in London with LeBron James and Kevin Durant heading the list. Of the 12, only Kobe Bryant will be missing.
“The roster is the strongest we’ve ever had,” said Colangelo, who has been in charge of the national team since 2005 as its managing director and has seen Team USA capture consecutive Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012 as well as the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championships. “We’ve brought these players through our program and our infrastructure and we’re very pleased with the continuity and the commitment of our players.”
Team USA will train in Las Vegas at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center in late July before heading to Spain. The dates are still being finalized. In addition, there will be an exhibition game at the Thomas & Mack Center prior to the World Cup against an opponent to be determined.
Obviously, not all 28 can make the team. Several players, including James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony have been told to not concern themselves with playing this summer. Two other Olympians, Deron Williams and Tyson Chandler, are also likely to miss the World Cup.
“We always think we’re going to have turnover from each competition,” Colangelo said. “For the upcoming World Cup, we may have six Olympians and six newcomers.
“There’s always injuries to take into account. That’s the big variable. Guys like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose may not be available this summer. But they’re still part of our program. That’s why I always say it’s a fluid process. You never know who is going to suddenly not be available.”
Of the 28 invitees, perhaps the most interesting name is the return of Dwight Howard. A member of the 2008 Olympic squad, the Houston Rockets’ center brings experience and depth to the center position which will include Chandler, DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond.
“We’re excited to have Dwight back,” Krzyzewski said of Howard. “He was an integral part of our success in Beijing and he’s having a tremendous NBA season.”
Look for USA Basketball to put a strong team on the floor for the World Cup, headed by Durant and Kevin Love. LeMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin have also indicated they would like to play for Team USA this summer. The Americans don’t want a repeat of 2006 when they lost in the world championships and had to qualify for the Beijing Olympics by playing in the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament, which they won at the Thomas & Mack.
Every player invited to participate has international experience with USA Basketball, whether it’s the Olympics, the former world championships or the Select squad. It will allow Krzyzewski and his staff to expedite putting in the game plan for Spain and he won’t have to spend a lot of time getting to know his players’ strengths and weaknesses.
“I love the three C’s,” Krzyzewski said. “The continuity our veterans give us by coming back. The second C is the commitment these guys have shown to their country and serving their country in their own way. The last one is the camaraderie that’s developed. They’re teammates. They’re USA Basketball players. The program Jerry has organized has shown that.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at 702-387-2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.