Stoudemire Most Intriguing of 27 Players Named for Team USA
In fact, it seemed as though Amar'e Stoudemire's days with Team USA were done. But the Phoenix forward, who had turned off USA Basketball officials by pulling out before the 2008 Olympics, was perhaps the biggest surprise when the pool of 27 names for this year's World Championships in Turkey, and ultimately the 2012 Olympics, was announced Wednesday.
"There was a time when he was not really going to be considered," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said of Stoudemire during a conference call. Stoudemire was on the 2004 Olympic team that settled for a bronze medal. "Had he not really reached out through his own efforts personally and his agent about his extreme desire to be part of it, he would not have been part of it."
As for Bynum, the Los Angeles Lakers' center, and Rondo, the Boston Celtics' point guard, both were wanted for Team USA. Colangelo said Bynum bowed out at the "last minute," saying he didn't want to make the commitment, and Rondo ignored overtures.
"Rondo was not responsive to inquiries regarding his interest," said Colangelo, who said about three or four players other than Bynum and Rondo declined or didn't respond to invitations. "We just assumed that was the case."
That was OK with USA Basketball officials. After Denver's Chauncey Billups had committed Tuesday to being on the list, the point guard position got even deeper.
Billups joins point guards Deron Williams of Utah, Chris Paul of New Orleans, Derrick Rose of Chicago and Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City. With likely three to make the final roster, Billups, the oldest player named Wednesday at 33, has a good chance. He can fulfill the veteran role open after Dallas point guard Jason Kidd retired from international competition following winning gold in the 2008 Olympics, and there is some concern over Paul's current knee injury.
"Chauncey (told Colangelo and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski) there's nothing more he wants to do than win a gold medal before his career is over," Colangelo said of Billups, who was on the 2007 Olympic qualifying team but bowed out before the 2008 Olympics due to family concerns. "We collectively believe that he could fit right into the Jason Kidd role ... We're very excited he wants to give it one more shot."
Other than Paul and Williams, Wednesday's list includes seven other holdovers from the 2008 Olympic team. The others are the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Cleveland's LeBron James, Miami's Dwyane Wade, Toronto's Chris Bosh, Denver's Carmelo Anthony, Orlando's Dwight Howard and Utah's Carlos Boozer.
Colangelo had anticipated last week Kidd and injured Milwaukee guard Michaell Redd would be the only two Olympic holdovers not on the list. But it was ultimately decided Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince was not a good fit due to the injuries he has had this season, and Colangelo said it was "time to move on."
Others named to the list include Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, a lock for the final roster, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo of Memphis, the Clippers' Eric Gordon, Indiana's Danny Granger, Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson and Kevin Love of Minnesota, New York's David Lee, New Jersey's Brook Lopez, the Lakers' Lamar Odom, Boston's Kendrick Perkins and Charlotte's Gerald Wallace.
Colangelo and Krzyzewski stressed the list will be fluid leading up to the 2012 Olympics in London. There could be additions and deletions.
With no current NBA rookies on the list, some could be candidates to be added later. For instance, Clippers forward Blake Griffin isn't on the list due to a knee injury that will sideline him all season.
Colangelo said all of the players named Wednesday will be invited to a minicamp, which will be July 22-25 in Las Vegas. Cuts will be made before training camp starts Aug. 9 or 10 and the final roster must be down to 12 by the World Championships, which run Aug. 28-Sept. 12.
"We believe it's extremely important," Krzyzewski said when asked about how many in the U.S. hold the Olympics with more regard while others in the world see the World Championships as more important. "(It was said at the Olympics) they should call it the World Cup for basketball. ... There are actually 24 countries involved (as opposed to 12 in the 2008 Olympics)."
Injuries always play a role in the availability of players. It remains to be seen what the status will be of Paul, out until at least early March after undergoing knee surgery last week.
"There are injuries, family issues and free agency," Colangelo said. "That's why you have a pool that's strong."
Colangelo has said on a number of occasions he doesn't see it as a huge hurdle some of the top players on the list can become free agents this summer. Among them are Bryant, James, Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire and Boozer, with Wade the only one USA Basketball officials do not have great optimism about being available.
"For sure, it's a factor," Colangelo said. "Free agency comes into play July 1, but that's three weeks before mini camp. It's conceivable many will have their business taken care of then and maybe not. The camp in August starts Aug. 9 or 10. That's six weeks out.
"You would think most everybody would have finished taking care of business then. You hope so. But it's an unknown fact of life. We would not put our players at risk if contracts aren't signed. We're going to play it by ear and hope that teams take care of business sooner than later."
Considering the zeal shown by Stoudemire, his contract doesn't appear to be an issue. Stoudemire, who told FanHouse last week he's leaning toward not opting out of his contract this summer, might end up not being a free agent anyhow.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at fanhouse.com or on Twitter@christomasson