Team USA Roster for FIBA World Championship Still in Flux
NEW YORK -- USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said there's a good chance Team USA will take all 15 players still in camp to Europe before cuts to 12 for the World Championship must be made Aug. 26.
Then again, the Americans might not have 15 guys still standing when the plane leaves next Monday for Europe, where Team USA will train in Spain and Greece before arriving in Turkey for the Aug. 28-Sept. 12 event.
Indiana forward Danny Granger is the latest to get hurt. Granger suffered what is believed to be a dislocated right ring finger when he hit his hand on the rim Tuesday while playing defense on the first day of a training camp at John Jay College.
Colangelo and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski didn't believe the injury was serious. But Granger was scheduled to have X-rays.
"He dislocated the bone, but he said he put it right back,'' Krzyzewski said. "And he says he feels he'll be all right.''
At least Granger isn't a post player, the position that has been most harmful to the health of Team USA players. Since the first day of practice July 20 at a Las Vegas training camp, the Americans have had health problems that cost them big men Robin Lopez (back), David Lee (finger) and Brook Lopez (mono). Other big men lost: Amar'e Stoudemire to insurance reasons at the start of the Las Vegas camp and LaMarcus Aldridge and Al Jefferson dropped out the previous week.
Until Granger got hurt, the only injury to a non-post player had been guard Tyreke Evans suffering a sprained ankle on the first day in Las Vegas. Evans missed the rest of the camp and was cut as the roster was trimmed from 19 to 15. Granger entered the New York camp with work to do in order to make the final 12-man roster.
If Team USA does have 15 guys still intact next week, Colangelo said they all might travel to Europe. With the Americans trying to put together a team on the fly, Colangelo said two exhibition games in Spain and one in Greece, in addition to practices, could provide pivotal extra time for evaluations.
"We've said there's a good chance we'll bring them all,'' Colangelo said. "A good chance. People have to be willing to do that. Some I know are ... I hate to use the fringe word, bubble. If we do have a final decision made, we wouldn't tell them to come. But I did ask a few players, 'If you're not one of the 12 (leading candidates for a roster spot after the New York camp), would you come?' And the response I've gotten is, 'Yes.' Knowing that, there's a good chance we'll bring them all.''
Team USA plays its final exhibition game Aug. 25 against Greece in Athens, and will fly the next day to Turkey. Colangelo said any players cut Aug. 26 and still in the traveling party would have the option to stay with the Americans throughout the World Championship.
The Americans figure to use the time in Spain and Greece to evaluate whether JaVale McGee will join Tyson Chandler as a second true center on the final roster. After Brook Lopez dropped out last week due to mono, he was replaced by McGee, who had been cut the week before.
"McGee coming back, that was important,'' Colangelo said. "We've got to take a good look at our size. ... If something did happen with Tyson ... the only real (center) is McGee other than (power forward Kevin) Love, who can play (center). ... So we want to see how things come this week. The other thing is, when we start playing exhibition games, a player like McGee can gain confidence in those games. ... Size is an issue when we've lost too many big guys.''
Other than Chandler, McGee and Love, the only other post players still in camp are power forwards Lamar Odom and Jeff Green. Krzyzewski said he expects Odom to play some center.
"I think they're pretty good,'' McGee (right) said of his chances to make the final roster. "We got Tyson but he's not going to be able to play 40 minutes. We've got somebody to come in for him. We're the same size (the 7-foot McGee and the 7-1 Chandler are the team's only players taller than 6-10). We do the same things.''
McGee, like Chandler a defensive-oriented shot blocker, said he was excited to get the call last week from his agent, B.J. Armstrong, that he had been invited to rejoin the team.
The Americans won't be running into a lot of top big men in the World Championship. But Brazil does have Denver's Nene and Cleveland's Anderson Varejao and Spain has Memphis' Marc Gasol. Colangelo said it will be a "read'' having Team USA go against Gasol twice next week in exhibitions.
"I think it's just really going to come down for us just rebounding the ball,'' said Team USA guard Chauncey Billups, Nene's Denver teammate, about the American's lack of size. "If we rebound, we're not going to get beat. I really believe that. If we don't, it's going to be tough. I think we just can't say, 'Tyson and JaVale, you get all the rebounds.' Everybody has to scrap.' "
For now, the Americans, with no players back from the 2008 gold-medal winning Olympic outfit, are getting very serious about using the time they have to put together a cohesive team. Colangelo had planned to bring the team to Springfield, Mass., for Friday night's Hall of Fame inductions, which includes enshrinements of the 1960 and 1992 U.S. Olympic teams. But that has been scrapped.
"We need the practice time,'' Colangelo said. "This is a new group.''
Colangelo just hopes more practice time doesn't result in more injuries.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson