Colangelo Says 2008 Olympians Out of Worlds Except Possibly Paul, Williams
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said in a phone interview Monday with FanHouse that only two holdovers from the 2008 Olympic team are making plans to possibly be with Team USA for the World Championships in Turkey. And those two, New Orleans guard Chris Paul and Utah guard Deron Williams, might not be able to play due to recovering from injuries.
So that means LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd and Jason Kidd are all out of the picture for USA Basketball this summer. Kidd (retired from USA basketball competition) and Redd (injured knee), though, were not candidates due to not being on the 31-man roster.
"It's a combination of three things, free agency, injuries and having gone hard for a long time,'' Colangelo said of 2008 Olympians not playing. "And I'm OK with that.''
All of the above players fit into the free agency or injured category except for Anthony and Howard. But Colangelo said he's willing to give them a "pass'' due to the loyalty they've shown in the past with USA Basketball.
USA Basketball officials have been working with players off the 31-man roster to see who will be on hand for the July 19-24 training camp in Las Vegas. Paul and Williams are the only two Olympic holdovers Colangelo expects to see.
"They're making arrangements to be there, but Deron isn't sure (about playing) because of his (wrist) injury, and the same thing with Chris,'' Colangelo said. "He's not sure his knee will be physically ready ... So they'll be there and we'll see.''
Colangelo initially was taking a hard line with players who didn't want to be part of the team this summer, saying it was a three-year commitment if a player also wanted to be part of the 2012 Olympic team. But Colangelo, as the months have gone by this year, has softened his stance.
"We realized that it was impractical (with the free-agency frenzy surrounding some of the top players),'' Colangelo said. "And we saw it as an opportunity for our young players ... We have an opportunity for our young players to show what they can do.
"I'm excited. We've got a great group of young guys and we have a great coaching staff. It's going to be a challenge. But I'm looking forward to it.''
The World Championships run from Aug. 28-Sept. 12. The U.S. hasn't won the event since 1994.
Colangelo said Bryant, who just led the Lakers to a second straight title, "wanted to play.'' But Colangelo said Bryant's injuries (a bad right index finger and sore right knee) made that an impossibility.
Competition this summer will be wide open. Even if Paul and Williams play, that would be 10 spots having changed from the 2008 Olympic team.
Colangelo already has said Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant is a lock. He has given very positive endorsements to Denver guard Chauncey Billups and Phoenix forward Amar'e Stoudemire, one free agent who is expected to play and has pledged that to Colangelo.
There is expected to be a number in the low 20s of players who will be in Las Vegas in two weeks. Colangelo said all of the 2008 Olympians on the 31-man roster will remain in good graces for London in 2012.
Speaking to FanHouse at the Air Tran Orlando Pro Summer League on Monday, Durant, 21, was not bothered that Team USA this summer will be devoid of Olympians and will have mostly very young players.
"I don't think so,'' Durant said when asked if it might be tougher to win. "We all know what it is like to play for (Team USA). We all know the sacrifices it takes, and I think we've got a lot of talent. The other teams around the world have gotten a lot better, but at the same time we know what it takes to win.''
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson