Minus big stars, Coach K puts Team USA through first workout
AP Basketball Writer
LAS VEGAS – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had some free agency business. Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul need to heal injuries.
Time to start choosing their replacements.
While its recent mainstays take the summer off, the United States gots back to work Tuesday in Las Vegas, opening training camp for the players competing for a chance to play in the world championships.
“I think everyone is antsy to get going again. It’ll be fun because we’ve got a bunch of young guys who are very hungry and it’s a different group,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. “It’s challenging, but it’s also exciting. That’s the way we choose to look at it.”
The new-look team still has plenty of talent, including NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, perennial All-Stars Amare Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups, and Lamar Odom and Rajon Rondo, last seen on the court in Game 7 of the NBA finals.
The camp roster includes 21 players who will practice through Friday, working some of the time against a group of 20 college seniors. The week ends with an intrasquad game Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The roster could then be trimmed before the team reconvenes next month in New York to continue its training before leaving for Europe. The world championships run Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Turkey.
Colangelo won’t make any predictions about who will make the final roster, saying the team is “just wide open as to what our plan is.” Durant is considered a lock, having nearly made the team that played in the 2007 Olympic qualifier before he played his first NBA game.
There were no such questions about the roster the last time the Americans played. Most of the team had been together three years before they won gold in the 2008 Olympics, and the core of that team committed early last year to return.
But it wasn’t long before talk of free agency put the status of Miami’s new trio in jeopardy. Those who aren’t under contract don’t chance playing in the summer, and though they’ve already signed their deals, it was obvious they wouldn’t be taking part.
“That all took its toll. Everything centered around free agency, certainly took the focus away from the world championships. We definitely have our share of guys who couldn’t participate anyway,” Colangelo said, citing injuries to Bryant, Paul, Deron Williams and Tayshaun Prince.
Carmelo Anthony was just married, and Colangelo said other players just wanted some time off, so he decided all of them could have a pass without jeopardizing their status in the program, calling it “no harm, no foul.”
Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching staff of Jim Boeheim, Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan are back, and they’ll have some familiar faces in camp.
Billups, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler all were on the U.S. team that went undefeated in the FIBA Americas tournament three years ago, and some players who are in camp took part in a minicamp last year.