A whole new world
USA Basketball takes new approach to Olympic team
Posted: Tuesday January 3, 2006 11:21AM; Updated: Tuesday January 3, 2006 6:15PM
Kobe Bryant has received the call. So has LeBron James. Allen Iverson might get his this week.
Yes, it's time to start thinking about the Olympics again. USA Basketball has begun the process of putting together the team that will compete in Beijing in 2008. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski already has been named coach. Now it's just a matter of finding players.
Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo, who has been given charge of putting together the men's senior team, has reportedly contacted 30 to 35 NBA players and is expected to announce a core group of six to 12 by the end of the month. No player has been officially named to the team just yet. But Bryant and James are among the handful who have confirmed that they have been contacted.
"I feel pretty good about it," James said recently. "I think most likely if I decide to be part of the team, I think it will be much better experience than it was two summers ago."
"[Colangelo] said he and Coach K are excited to have me play on the team," Bryant told the Orange County Register. "He wanted to know where I stood as far as my commitment and time. I just told him: It's not a problem to me. Whatever you need me to do, I'll do. I'll be there. The important thing is us getting that gold back."
Embarrassed by its bronze medal finish in the '04 Games (and a sixth-place finish at the World Championships in '02) USA Basketball is changing the way it goes about putting together the next Team USA. Gone are the days when the U.S. team would consist of 12 NBA All-Stars thrown together for a month. This next Olympic team, Colangelo vows, will consist of the right mix of players. It will also require players to give a three-year commitment in some form, with some likely to be asked to compete at the '06 World Championships in Japan.
"The international game is a lot different game than people truly recognize," Colangelo said when he took the post last April. "It's more than just the trapezoid lane compared to our lane. It's a different game, and so as you prepare a team you need role players, you need players who can shoot the ball, pass the ball and understand the game as much as you need players who are just athletic."
In other words, the 2008 Olympic team might have a few lesser-known guys playing alongside bigger-name stars like Kobe and LeBron. Think Michael Redd, Kirk Hinrich, Shane Battier, Brad Miller. Maybe even a Brian Cardinal.
Some of the NBA's biggest names, in fact, have appeared lukewarm to the idea of playing in '08 -- especially if it involves a three-year commitment. Shaq, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, for example, are all considered unlikely to participate. Each has represented the U.S. in previous Olympics.
Colangelo says the reception overall, however, has been enthusiastic. He won't comment on his conversations, but several players in recent days have come out and said they would love to be on his call list. Dwyane Wade, Jermaine O'Neal, Elton Brand and Iverson are just a handful of All-Stars who have said they would be interested. Iverson could get his chance to meet with Colangelo on Wednesday, when the Sixers play at Phoenix.
As for James, he too seems genuinely interested. While he has expressed frustration in the past about his stint at the Athens Games, the 21-year-old Cavs phenom now seems open-minded. Before a game in Chicago a few weeks back, he was asked why he felt this Olympic experience might be better than his previous one.
"I think knowing what I got myself into two summers ago, I didn't get a full-fledged explanation of what my role was going to be," James said. "I think this time I will. Also, just knowing what the Olympic experience is and being more comfortable with it."
If nothing else, Colangelo's work this month should help make clear to James and other NBA stars what this next Olympic commitment will entail. If they don't want to do it, Team USA will move on without them.
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/w ... index.html
Guess not the entire roster will be filled with super all-star named players. Going to have role players to compliment the all-stars.