They will lead a U.S. Olympic basketball team that was announced today — one that hopes to capture the gold medal in Beijing in August after a third-place showing in Athens four years ago. They’ll have plenty of help.
“It was a very difficult selection process,” said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball managing director. “When you have as many outstanding players as we do — to select a group of 12 is going to leave out some outstanding people.”
The team was selected without a tryout. It will have a minicamp this week in Las Vegas and reconvene there July 20-25 to train and play an exhibition against Canada before heading overseas.
The Americans open Olympic play against China on Aug. 10.
Although the Americans captured the gold at the Sydney Games in 2000, they no longer dominate international play as they once did. The talent gap has narrowed and many top NBA players have chosen to not play for the national team in recent years.
Now, the U.S. will field a team that appears loaded. Then again, the Americans went 5-3 in Athens and lost for the first time since NBA players started competing in 1992, even though they had James, Anthony, Wade and Tim Duncan. That group got routed by Puerto Rico before losing to Lithuania and Argentina, but this one is confident it will take the gold.
“It’s really the world’s game,” Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We think we’re the best at playing that game.”
Bryant just won his first MVP and led the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals. James averaged 30.0 points — just enough to beat Bryant for the scoring title.
Those two, along with Anthony, Kidd and Dwight Howard, started for a team that went unbeaten in the Olympic qualifying tournament last year.
Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire withdrew from Olympic consideration apparently concerned about pushing his body too hard after knee surgery in 2005 and 2006. So did Detroit’s Chauncey Billups, who would have had a tough time making the team, given the depth in the backcourt.
Wade cemented his spot after Colangelo watched him work out in Chicago recently. Wade has had chronic soreness in his left knee since undergoing surgery in 2007, and his season ended in March.
Wade started working out in Chicago in May, and James and Paul joined him to help sharpen his game. Colangelo paid a visit and left convinced the 6-foot-4 guard was healthy.
But where is Pierce?
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press