Jerry Colangelo plans to contact players
With training camp less than a year away and no guarantee of games before then, Jerry Colangelo is ready to start finding out who wants to play on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
USA Basketball's chairman said he plans to start contacting candidates "soon, within the next month" to gauge their interest in going to London.
"Just to make contact with all of the people on our list, give them a whole picture of what is coming," Colangelo told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "Basically to get a read from them as to what their interests and intentions are in advance."
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the rest of the 2008 gold medalists all committed to returning to the program through 2012, but Colangelo realizes that "circumstances have changed for some of the players who were on the Olympic team."
So some of those spots -- perhaps even half -- will be filled by holdovers from last year's world championship team. By winning that tournament, the U.S. automatically qualified for London, sparing the Americans having to qualify this summer without locked-out NBA players.
"That was our priority and it happened, and thank goodness with kind of the sky falling," Colangelo said, referring to the league's uncertain labor situation.
Colangelo is using the time off to prepare for next summer. He recently returned from a trip to London to look at the setup and is making plans for training camp, exhibition games and "the nuances of the Olympics starting earlier (than 2008) next year."
The biggest question is who will be there with him.
The roster of 12 players plus alternates has to be selected June 18, potentially before the NBA finals -- if there are any -- are over. Training camp would open around July 4 for the July 27 start of the Olympics.
Among the obstacles that could knock out some of the reigning gold medalists:
• Bryant's balky knee.
"I'm really not worried about (anyone) not being available. If someone chooses not to play, that's one thing," Colangelo said, adding no players have told him they weren't playing, but he has read reports of some wavering.
"The one thing I do know, we have an outstanding pool of players. Whoever the 12 turn out to be, they will represent our country very well."
Wade said Wednesday he was "in the middle" about playing, noting he would be one of the older players at 30. His focus is more on the custody of his kids and it's believed that will enter into his thinking before making such a commitment.
But another run with the U.S. team could be a way for James to rebuild a reputation that was weakened through his move from Cleveland to Miami. The 2008 squad was hugely popular, and Colangelo said playing for the U.S. adds "value to them in terms of their own brands."
"So I would anticipate that we're going to have a very positive response, but we're prepared to move on because of the depth that we have," Colangelo said.
The current U.S. roster is about 30 players, but Colangelo said there are truly closer to 18 candidates for London. Referring to the roster from Beijing, he said "three or four of those spots are vulnerable," but then named seven players from 2010 who would immediately be leading contenders for spots: Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler, Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups.
He also hinted that Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin could be added to the roster, so realistically the Olympic roster will be a mixture of the past two U.S. teams.
Problem is, Colangelo doesn't know when, or if, he'll get to watch those players on the court again. Without the benefit of a tryout camp before picking his team, the only thing he'd be able to go on is what he sees of them during a season that may be shortened or canceled.
"What I'm hopeful of is that there is a season, to continue to evaluate players during the course of this next season so we'll be in a better position," Colangelo said, adding that "we just have to be prepared for any eventuality. It's out of our control.
"I think we're in good shape, despite the fact the sky is falling in NBA circles so to speak," he said. "Fortunately we have a year to watch and see what happens, but we'll be ready to pull the trigger when we need to."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press