SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Los Angeles Lakers' power forward Karl Malone, grief-stricken over
the death of his mother, will not rejoin the U.S. Olympic
qualifying team. Kenyon Martin of the New Jersey Nets was chosen
Tuesday as his replacement.
Malone called U.S. team officials Monday night and informed them
of his decision. He will retain his spot on the 2004 Olympic team
if the United States earns one of three berths to the Athens Games
at a qualifying tournament that begins Wednesday.
Martin boarded a flight Tuesday morning to San Juan and was
expected to join the team at its afternoon practice. Martin, who
got married Saturday in Las Vegas, is not guaranteed a spot on the
2004 team, USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller said.
Malone, a 40-year-old two-time Olympian, left the team's
training camp in New York on Aug. 13 to return to Arkansas after
his mother, Shirley Jackson Malone, died.
"We really wanted Karl to be here, but he suffered such an
unbelievable loss. He is so close to his family that he just
couldn't be here and it was more important for him to be with his
family and we all understand that," U.S. coach Larry Brown said.
"He'll be remembered here and hopefully he'll be part of our team
in 2004 if we're lucky enough to qualify."
"This is somewhat unexpected, but it is a great opportunity for
Kenyon. He's certainly deserving of this kind of honor and we're
looking forward to having him join the team," Brown said.
The U.S. team plays its first game Wednesday night against
The 6-foot-9 Martin, a three-year NBA veteran, gives the
American team another natural power forward along the front line.
The U.S. team is using Tim Duncan and Jermaine O'Neal, who play
power forward on their NBA teams, as centers. Elton Brand is the
other big forward.
Martin was a member of the 2001 Goodwill Games team that went
5-0 in Australia, needing overtime to defeat Brazil.
"This is a great opportunity. I'm very pleased to be added to
the team," Martin said in a statement. "I already have a couple
of my teammates on the team so we should have a lot of fun."
The first overall pick of the 2000 draft, Martin averaged 16.7
points and 8.3 rebounds last season for the Nets, who went to the
NBA Finals for the second consecutive year.
Martin, who shot just 3-for-23 in the deciding Game 6 of the
finals against San Antonio, reportedly asked for a trade earlier
this summer when the Nets did not meet his agent's demand for a
maximum contract extension.
He was selected to the U.S. team by a subcommittee that included
Stu Jackson, an NBA vice president and chairman of the USA
Basketball selection committee.
"Under these circumstances, because of the time issue, they
have the authority to select someone else," Miller said.