A star-laden roster of NBA players will make up the United States Men's
Basketball team for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Chris Cox has
details on the selections announced Monday, as the Americans try to
regain international dominance.
This season's NBA Most Valuable Player, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers are the two headlining names on the USA men's roster.
In addition to James, four other players named to the team have previous Olympic experience, including Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks), Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz), and Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat).
Completing the squad, which will be led by Duke University Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, are Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons), Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors), Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic), Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets), Michael Redd (Milwaukee Bucks) and Deron Williams (Utah Jazz).
The reason for the selection of these All-Stars was made clear by the Director of USA Basketball Jerry Colangelo.
"I felt that there were a number of things that needed to change, the culture certainly needed to change," he said. "We needed new infrastructure. We needed commitments from coaches and players alike for a period of time. All of that transpired, took place, and it culminated Monday with the actual selection of the 12 players that will be representing the United States in the Olympics in Beijing."
One problem with having so many star players is keeping them all happy. So how will Krzyzewski - the man known as "Coach K" - address the egos of players who are used to being the go-to guy on their NBA teams?
"We don't want to reduce guys' egos and tell them 'you're the 11th man or 12th man,'" he said. "We want them to be a star."
To help Colangelo and Krzyzewski make their decisions, they paid close attention to the NBA playoffs.
"That's the level of pressure, especially if they're in a seventh game, because in international basketball it's one and done after pool play," Krzyzewski said. "I was impressed with our guys throughout. But like Jerry I was just crossing my fingers that no one would get hurt."
The United States won three straight gold basketball medals at the Olympics starting in 1992 when NBA players were first allowed to take part in the Games. In recent years, the United States has not dominated international play and had to settle for a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Neither Colangelo nor Coach K were with the team then, but Coach K does offer one explanation.
"Those guys had commitment, good coaching," he said. "They didn't have the opportunity of providing any continuity."
The U.S. men have their first mini-camp training sessions this Saturday and Sunday in Las Vegas. The U.S. team will meet again on July 21 and play four warm-up games before arriving in Beijing on August sixth. Preliminary pool play will begin on August 10 when the United States meets Olympic host China.