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Monday, January 16, 2012
Three Clippers are Olympic finalists

By Arash Markazi

LOS ANGELES – Three members of the Los Angeles Clippers were named finalists for the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team on Monday, tying them with the Miami Heat for the most players on the roster.

Clippers forward Blake Griffin was a new addition to a roster that had previously included the Clippers’ starting backcourt of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups.

“It’s an honor for me,” Griffin said. “I hope I get a chance to play but there are a lot of guys who deserve to be on that team.  It’s honor to be in that group and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Griffin said it would be a dream to be on the Olympic team that will play in London this summer and has already talked to USA coach Mike Krzyzewski about the experience of playing for Team USA.

“I’ve talked to several guys, including Coach K and the main common thing is how much pride you have for your country,” Griffin said. “It’s much, much, much bigger than yourself and getting to be a part of that is special.”

Billups said being on the Olympic team is perhaps the one thing missing from his career after missing out on the 2008 Olympics for “family reasons.” He was a key member of the gold medal winning teams in the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship and the 2010 FIBA World Championship.

“It’s an awesome honor,” Billups said. “One of the last goals I had in my career was to be able to play in the Olympics and to be a finalist is definitely and honor and we’ll see how it goes.

Billups said he hopes Griffin will be on the roster that goes to London because it would help him continue develop his game. Many of the players on the 2010 World Championship team went on to have career seasons when they returned.

“I think it would be great for Blake to experience that,” Billups said. “I don’t know how much USA basketball experience he has growing up but this level is certainly much different and he’ll be playing with a lot of other great players and I think he’ll grow a lot in a month of basketball.”

-- Arash Markazi