LAS VEGAS -- LeBron James already knew his name would be
called when coach Mike Krzyzewski announced the U.S. national
team's 15-man traveling roster Tuesday.
It still gave James a thrill to hear he's definitely headed to
Asia next month for the world championships.
"I wasn't sweating, but it makes basketball a lot more fun when
you're with a great team, and when you're around guys you know,"
James said. "Guys were great about coming in here and not having a
personal agenda. We're just all here to make a team, and we've got
to do it as quickly as possible."
Adam Morrison, Luke Ridnour and Shawn Marion -- who has a minor
knee injury -- were not among the players selected for the roster by
Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo after a weeklong
training camp in Las Vegas.
Amare Stoudemire and Kirk Hinrich were the only moderately surprising inclusions on the 15-man roster, which will play warmup
games in Las Vegas, China and Korea before opening the world
championships in Japan next month.
Though Morrison and Ridnour left town before the official announcement, there appeared to be no hard feelings about the
process. Unlike some previous U.S. squads of NBA millionaires, this
team seems uniformly eager to take on the world.
"Why not be a part of something that you can be proud of doing
for the rest of your life?" asked Paul, who emerged as the
Americans' probable starting point guard with a dynamite training
camp. "We'd probably just be watching TV and playing pickup ball
After three more days of workouts, the club will play an
exhibition game against Puerto Rico in Las Vegas before heading for
Asia. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff must trim the roster to
12 players by Aug. 18 -- one day before his club begins the world
championships in Sapporo.
"This week was more about putting in the foundation for a
system and building camaraderie," Krzyzewski said. "We
accomplished that this week, and now we have to start doing some
more basketball stuff so we look like we know what we're doing."
Krzyzewski also revealed a few nuggets of strategy for the
tournament: He doesn't plan to have a regular starting lineup, and
nobody will play all 40 minutes in any game. The Duke coach
wouldn't mind using all 12 players in most games -- another way to
keep his players' legs fresh and confidence high.
Marion, Morrison and Ridnour weren't cut from the U.S. team in
the new selection system championed by Colangelo -- they just
weren't included on this roster. Kobe Bryant, Chauncey Billups and
Paul Pierce, who couldn't play next month because of injuries or
family commitments, still are candidates for future U.S. teams as
In all, 24 players and non-roster invitee Greg Oden will be in
the mix for training and competition for at least the next three
years, through the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Marion, the Phoenix Suns' three-time NBA All-Star, only felt the
soreness in his left knee in the final days of training camp. He
was just one of five U.S. players remaining from the 2004 Olympic
team, which won disappointing bronze medals.
"I just told the guys they've got to respect each other and
play hard," said Marion, who will have an MRI exam this week.
"It's a great group, and they're going to bring it home."
Marion's absence deprives the American club of a veteran
international performer, a versatile defender and one of its best
athletes. Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo revealed
they secretly decided to take 16 players to Asia before Marion's
injury developed Monday.
"I keep talking, I'm going to start crying," Krzyzewski joked
after listing Marion's attributes.
Hinrich, the Chicago Bulls' point guard, beat out Ridnour for
the ostensible third-string spot behind Paul and Arenas. Hinrich
was slowed by a hamstring injury during training camp, but
apparently did enough to impress Krzyzewski.
Stoudemire earned a spot on the traveling team with a remarkable
comeback from surgery on both knees during last season with the
Suns, when he played in three NBA games. The 6-foot-10 forward
looked strong and mobile during training camp despite struggling
during summer-league play a few weeks ago.
"It's a great feeling," Stoudemire said. "This is a great
opportunity to show your abilities to the rest of the world, and I
didn't want to miss it."