Team USA: Seventeen Players for Twelve Spots
Posted Jul 19 2007 4:49PM
SECAUCUS, N.J., July 19, 2007 -- When training camp opens up in Las Vegas on Friday, Team USA officially enters into year number two in the three-year plan that Managing Director of the U.S. Men's Senior National team, Jerry Colangelo, laid out in the spring of 2006.
The goal for the United States is to return to the gold-medal form of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Since Y2K, the medals on the basketball shelf of America's trophy case have either darkened -- as in the bronze the U.S. earned in the 2004 Olympics followed by another bronze at the FIBA World Championship of Basketball (WCOB) last summer -- or disappeared all together -- as in the sixth-place, medal-less performace at the 2002 Basketball World Championship.
A lot has changed since Team USA beat Argentina in the third-place game in Saitama, Japan last September:
Once you do all the roster subtractions and additions detailed in the bullets above, 17 players are left for 12 spots on the team. That means that five guys who have been accustomed to being the best player on their team as McDonald's All-Americans in high school, Naismith All-Americans in college and NBA All-Stars in the pros, will be left off of the squad that competes against Argentina, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Brazil, Canada, Venezuela and the US Virgin Islands in August.
Here's a look at those 17 guys and the strengths they could potentially bring to Team USA, including stat lines from the '06 WCOB for the six returning players:
Carmelo Anthony, DEN19.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.9 SPG, .504 FG%, .440 3FG%
Melo was one of the undisputed leaders of the WCOB squad as his 19.9 points per game led the team and he was named a tri-captain along with LeBron and D-Wade.
His 29 points in the second half against Italy single-handedly lifted the U.S. to a victory after trailing by nine at the half.
Anthony built upon the confidence gained from Team USA to average a career-high 28.9 points per game in 2006-07, second only to Kobe Bryant.
According to Gilbert Arenas' blog, Anthony was so serious about his training for Team USA this summer that he had a documentary film crew recording his work outs in D.C.
Shane Battier, HOU5.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.7 BPG, .536 FG%, .476 3FG%
Battier is the type of player that wasn't invited onto the Dream Teams of the past, but in a three-year program, his defensive and team-oriented skills can find their niche. He also proved to be an adept outside shooter as he led the team in three-point percentage and was fourth in total makes.
He started five of Team USA's nine games last summer.
There is obvious trust there between him and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who coached Battier at Duke for four seasons, culminating in the 2001 NCAA title over Arizona.
Battier is one of four former Blue Devils in the player pool along with Boozer, Elton Brand and J.J. Redick.
Chauncey Billups, DETDid not play with Team USA at WCOB (birth of child)
Billups will compete with Hinrich, Jason Kidd and Deron Williams for point guard duties and hope to shake off his sluggish performance in the Eastern Conference Finals (15.3 points per game on 43 percent shooting, 3.5 assists and 3.8 turnovers per game).
"Mr. Big Shot" could be a valuable contributor for his championship experience, outside shooting and ability to distribute the ball.
Billups is one of the original 24 invitees.
Chris Bosh, TOR6.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.5 BPG, .654 FG%, .400 3FG%
The draft class of '03 was celebrated last summer with the naming of the tri-captains, but Bosh had a breakout year in '06-07 as he averaged career highs in points (22.6) and rebounds (10.7) and making the All-Star game and the playoffs, showing that he belongs in the same strata as his fellow classmates.
Bosh was a role player at the WCOB, but with Brand not competing this summer he is the frontrunner for the starting four spot.
Despite not starting any games in Japan, Bosh was the team's third leading rebounder.
Kobe Bryant, LALDid not play with Team USA at WCOB (knee surgery)
The back-to-back scoring king followed up his career-best average of 35.4 in '05-06 with 10 50-point games in '06-07.
With Wade out, Kobe is a natural fit to plug into the two spot as a guard who can shoot it and also create opportunities for others by slashing to the hoop.
Bryant will be the center of attention this weekend, not just for him taking part in the first Team USA practice of his career, but for his first formal time with the national media since announcing his desire to be traded from the Lakers.
Tyson Chandler, NOHDid not play with Team USA at WCOB (new invitee)
The Hornets got Chandler from the Bulls on the cheap for P.J. Brown and Chandler produced by averaging 12.4 rebounds (second in the league) and 1.8 blocks per game.
The squad that went to Japan didn't have a big man who was a defensive specialist. After Sofoklis Schortsanitis of Greece tore up the U.S. inside the paint last summer, Chandler might be more valuable.
Chandler is coming off the finest season of his six-year career, so that confidence should serve him well. That said, just by virtue of the talent that will be there, Chandler will be fighting for one of the final spots.
Kevin Durant, SEADid not play with Team USA at WCOB (new invitee)
After being drafted No. 2 by Seattle, Durant proved he could score in the Las Vegas Summer League (24.0 points per game), but his all-around game still needs development (2.0 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game).
Durant has had many comparisons made between him and Carmelo Anthony after growing up in the Baltimore area, attending Oak Hill Academy and enjoying a highly-successful freshman season in college, and now the two will be teammates.
He brings a 6-9 frame and a 7-5 wingspan to the shooting guard position, but with Bryant and Anthony playing the same spot, he'll have his work cut out for him to make the squad.
Kirk Hinrich, CHI6.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, .462 3FG%, .800 FT%
Hinrich started three games at point guard in the WCOB.
His 3.2 assists/turnover ratio was second on the team to Chris Paul, but his 24 fouls were first on the team. He fouled out against Greece.
Hinrich is an oft-forgotten member of the '03 Draft, joining fellow draftees Anthony, James, Wade and Bosh on the team.
The question is whether Hinrich will be rewarded for his service last summer and be set aside a spot, or if he'll have to prove himself all over again.
Dwight Howard, ORL7.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG, .541 FG%, .619 FT%
Howard started five games for the U.S. last summer and led the team in rebounding.
Howard improved his game in all aspects last season, averaging career highs in points, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage.
He was more of a role player last season, but now a year older and with key big man Elton Brand unavailable, Howard will likely shoulder more of the load this time around.
LeBron James, CLE13.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, .582 FG%
LeBron was Mr. Everything for Team USA last summer, but struggled at times only shooting 33 percent from three, 55 percent from the foul line and leading the team with a 2.8 turnovers per game average.
James is coming off the longest season of his life as he advanced all the way to the NBA Finals. Will his legs be fresh?
As a tri-captain and the only player to start all nine games at the WCOB, James will be expected to set the tone by his work ethic.
Jason Kidd, NJNDid not play with Team USA at WCOB (new invitee)
At 35 years old, Kidd is the oldest player coming to camp. For perspective, consider that Kevin Durant was just eight years old when Kidd was a rookie in 1996-97.
Despite his age, Kidd isn't slowing down as he averaged a triple-double during the first round of the playoffs vs. Toronto and registered 12 triple-dips during the regular season.
With Chris Paul unavailable, Kidd is the favorite heading into camp to nab the starting point guard spot.
Kidd was a member of the 2000 gold medal Olympic team.
Mike Miller, MEMDid not play with Team USA at WCOB (new invitee)
The former Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year enjoyed his finest scoring season in '06-07, averaging a career-high 18.5 points per game.
Miller will be in competition with J.J. Redick and Michael Redd to be the team's designated shooter off the bench.
As a teenager MIller played on the U.S. Junior National team under then head coach, and current assistant, Jim Boeheim.
Tayshaun Prince, DETDid not play with Team USA at WCOB (new invitee)
Although more versatile on the offensive end than Tyson Chandler, Prince is the other primarily defensive-focused player at camp.
Prince averaged 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists last season but struggled in the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland as he shot just 16-for-66 (24.2 percent) during the six-game series.
Prince and Chauncey Billups are one of the two pairs of NBA teammates trying out along with Howard and Redick of Orlando. Hinrich and Chandler are former teammates, as are Battier and Miller.
Michael Redd, MILDid not play with Team USA at WCOB (wedding)
Redd is the only player trying out that missed a significant amount of time due to injury last season, as he sat out 29 games due to a strained left patellar tendon.
When he did see court time, Redd made the most of it as he averaged a career-high 26.7 points per game including a 57-point explosion against Utah in November.
Redd will be auditioning for the shooter role, but his defense could prove to be the difference maker as Colangelo has voiced his desire to improve defensively as a team.
J.J. Redick, ORLDid not play with Team USA at WCOB (back)
After a limited rookie season in which he averaged 6.0 points per game in 42 games played, Redick is coming off a stellar summer league where he averaged 21 points per game.
Like Oden and Durant this year, Redick and Adam Morrison were the recent college players invited to camp last season.
Redick faces an uphill battle to make the team, but with his outside stroke and Coach K on the sidelines, anything is possible.
Amare Stoudemire, PHXDid not play with Team USA at WCOB (knees)
At last summer's training camp, Stoudemire was recovering from two knee surgeries and nobody was sure if he could return to his 2004-05 form, he responded by being named to the All-NBA First Team and averaging 20.4 points and 9.6 rebounds in '06-07.
Amare takes up space in the middle, but runs the floor like a wingman and will be a welcome target to the USA point guards.
He should challenge Howard for the starting center spot.
Deron Williams, UTADid not play with Team USA at WCOB (new invitee)
With Paul out, Team USA welcomes another point guard from the 2005 Draft into the fold.
Williams was great in the regular season (16.3 points, 9.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds per game) but maybe even better in the playoffs (19.2 points, 8.6 assists, 4.3 rebounds).
Like Kidd, Williams is known for putting his stamp on the game by willing his desired game tempo on the opposing team.
The point guard race is too close to call with Kidd's and Billups' experience, Hinrich's outside shooting and WCOB service and Williams' game getting better by the day.
Have a question or comment about Team USA or care to share who you think should make the team? Send an e-mail.