Posted Jul 21 2010 6:50AM
LAS VEGAS -- With all 12 of the players from the 2008 Olympic team staying home this summer, there were already questions regarding Team USA's chances to win the World Championship for the first time since 1994.
Late Monday night, before training camp even got started, the team took another hit when it learned that due to pre-existing issues with his knee and eye, the Knicks were unable to secure insurance for Amar'e Stoudemire's new $100 million contract, meaning Stoudemire would not be able to participate this summer.
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo received four calls and a text message from Knicks president Donnie Walsh late Monday, notifying Colangelo that the Knicks were pulling Stoudemire out of camp and preventing him from playing for Team USA this summer to avoid the risk of injury.
"That's the Knicks' right," Colangelo said before the team's first practice at the Cox Pavilion on the campus of UNLV Tuesday. "They have to protect their own investment. They just made a big one and that will keep him out."
In addition, Suns center Robin Lopez decided Tuesday morning that he will also not be participating, choosing instead to continue his own rehab program, rather than change up his routine. Lopez missed the final 10 games of the Suns' regular season and the first two playoff series with a bulging disc in his lower back. He returned for the conference finals against the Lakers, but played a total of just 20 minutes in the final two games.
"He feels he needs to stay on his own program," Colangelo said.
With just two real centers left in camp, Tyson Chandler and Lopez's twin brother, Brook, Colangelo made a late call to Wizards' big man JaVale McGee, who had a strong summer league and took part in USA Basketball camp a year ago. McGee was ready and participated in practice Tuesday.
The Stoudemire news was a bit stunning to the players here. The Knicks' new big man had taken part in a team meeting Monday evening, and has been eager to participate. He reached out to Colangelo this season to let him know that he wanted to be a part of this group. Most players didn't find out the news until they showed up for breakfast Tuesday morning.
"I was disappointed, just because I love Amar'e," Chandler said. "I love his game. I love his style. I love everything about him. I was looking forward to playing with him. But on the other hand, I can understand [the Knicks] trying to protect the future."
Colangelo was clearly upset about the timing of the Knicks' decision, noting "it was late notice" multiple times as he spoke to reporters.
Stoudemire was penciled in as the starting center for this team. He was the most complete player of the big men in camp, and as one of the best pick-and-roll bigs in the NBA, he would have been a difficult matchup for Team USA's opponents. He was also one of the most experienced players on the Team USA roster and one of only four with senior-level experience in international competition, having played in the 2004 Olympics and 2007 FIBA Americas tournament.
Now, the competition for that starting job looks to be wide open. Beyond Chandler, Brook Lopez and McGee, the Warriors' David Lee looks to be the only big man who could play big minutes at the five.
"The bigs that are here have a great opportunity," said Colangelo, who told NBA.com last week that the preliminary plan was to cut the list of players down to 15 or 16 before the team convenes in New York on Aug. 8 for the second phase of training.
No matter who makes the final roster of 12 for the start of the World Championship on Aug. 28, Team USA will still have plenty of athleticism and versatility. But there's no doubt that the loss of Stoudemire will make it much tougher to score in the paint.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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