The pool of 34 players that Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski will have at their disposal on behalf of USA Basketball was announced on Thursday afternoon. Eight members of the 2012 Olympic team were invited to the Las Vegas mini-camp that begins on August 11th and ends on August 13th with a scrimmage. Four players were not invited: Kobe Bryant will be 38 years old in 2016 and is not interested. Tyson Chandler, Deron Williams and Andre Iguodala were not invited because, frankly, they are not good enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
The most glaring omission was Derrick Rose who was on the FIBA World Cup team last summer in Spain. Rose was supposed to be a member of the 2012 Olympic team but tore his ACL. Three years later he has been excluded from the Las Vegas mini-camp. So Brazil in 2016 is out. You have to wonder if Rose will ever be an Olympian.
Damian Lillard was another big name left off the list.
Realistically speaking, there are four open spots when you consider that the eight former Olympians have an inside track to return to international competition. Guards: Chris Paul, James Harden, Russell Westbrook. Forwards: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Anthony Davis. All eight are max players, the best at their position, so its hard to imagine them not being eligible for Rio in 2016.
Last summer the United State won the FIBA World Cup. Nine players on that team were invited to the mini-camp: Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Rudy Gay, Kenneth Faried, Andre Drummond, Mason Plumlee, DeMarcus Cousins.
The other 17 invited: Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, Mike Conley, Victor Oladipo, John Wall, Michael Carter-Williams, Harrison Barnes, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul George, Blake Griffin, Draymond Green, Tobias Harris, Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard, Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan.
A decade ago, NBA players were lukewarm to the idea of Olympic participation. Underachieving wasn’t worth the criticism back home. But in 2008, the Olympic team headed by LeBron James and Kobe Bryant went to China, shared their experiences on social media, marketed their individual brand to a global audience, willingly became part of the Olympic community and were cultural figures overseas. Winning the gold medal for the first time in eight years brought redemption to the American brand of the sport which had been burdened with a negative perception.
Erasing the apprehension, the 2008 Olympic team reminded the world what was possible: patriotism, unity, teamwork, excellence, fun and a gold medal wrapped around your neck. Everyone wanted in. Consequently USA Basketball grew their brand to the point that 34 players are giving up three days of their summer despite the long shot of being selected for Rio.
For many of the younger players like Gordon Hayward and Tobias Harris and Chandler Parsons, being in Vegas is an opportunity to train and compete for a spot on the Olympic team while learning from their more experienced peers.
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