Posted Aug 17 2010 7:31PM
How perfect that the declarations came at Radio City Music Hall, because this was pure theater.
Carmelo Anthony said last Thursday while the current U.S. roster scrimmaged at the New York landmark that he wants to be on the next U.S. roster and Chris Paul committed the same night to likewise returning to the Team USA fold for the London Olympics, and we can certainly believe the dedication.
Unless, just maybe, such statements have been proven meaningless these last few weeks and especially these last few days, as the Americans held a mini-camp in Las Vegas and worked out and played exhibitions in Manhattan and jetted to Europe for a few more exhibitions before the world championships begin Aug. 28 in Turkey with a grand total of zero returnees from the 2008 team that won Olympic gold.
You know, the same 2008 team that wrapped itself in the flag in Beijing and seemed giddy about the chance to re-establish basketball dominance for USA Basketball and -- wait for it -- practically pulled a collective hammy in the rush to commit themselves for another ride. Jerry Colangelo, the managing director then and now, said four or five members of the 12-man roster in China quickly told him in the post-gold glow that they wanted to play for the U.S. again, then others gave Colangelo the same message at All-Star weekend 2009.
It was the hangover talking.
The 2008 roster: Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Paul, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd, Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams.
The 2010 roster, after all: Chauncey Billups, Tyson Chandler, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Andre Igoudala, Kevin Love, Lamar Odom, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, with one more cut due by Aug. 26.
So much for lasting commitments. There were surely injury issues for some, including Paul and his knee and Bryant with various problems that haunted him through a chunk of the playoffs. And there is always an age-related turnover, in this case with Kidd and Redd (who is hurt anyway).
That's an awful lot of guys who needed to clean their sock drawer this summer.
Anthony said as recently as 11 months ago that he was in, telling AOL FanHouse that the majority of the team from Beijing '08 would "most likely" be in Turkey, that he expected James to play at the world championships, and that "Everybody wanted to see if everybody wanted to come back, so, once that was established, it was easy." But Anthony's summer 2010 got too busy because of his July 10 marriage, others had a crazy few months because of free agency that lasted a few weeks, and things just came up.
It's not just the United States. The bottom has dropped out of the world championships on a lot of fronts. Pau Gasol declined to play for Spain, the biggest threat to dethrone Team USA. Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman decided against reprising Beijing roles with Germany, and other stars are sitting out because of injury or just because. No other group of players boasted so proudly, though, of reclaiming a special place on the victory stand at the 2008 Games and pledging to keep the forward momentum going.
Maybe some vacationers will fall back on semantics -- the commitment was for the Olympics, not the world championships. And London '12 will almost certainly attract more stars, because the Summer Games are much bigger in the United States, because there will be a lot more pressure from sponsors to be on that global stage, and because travel to England doesn't sound as formidable as Turkey.
A lot of the mega-stars should be back for the next Olympics, along with the new ones that emerge in the meantime as everyone gets to watch whether Colangelo really means it when he says dedication to the program will play a role in determining the London roster. Anthony will be there. For sure. No question.
"Of course," he said in an interview with the Associated Press at the Radio City event last week. "I'm locked in. I'm committed."
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