NBA Saturday: Team USA May Be In Trouble
As the 2012 NBA regular season campaign comes to a close, the majority of the media coverage will now naturally shift to the upcoming playoff schedule and what team will eventually hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy two months from now and be crowned champions of the world.
Well, maybe not the world.
The tournament to decide the true champions of the world, the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games, is set to begin in a little over three months – 97 days to be exact.
The United States, Team USA, will enter the 2012 games as the reigning and defending champions after taking home the gold medal in 2008 – their first since 2000.
Historically, Team USA’s men’s national basketball team has routinely dominated the field of competition when it comes to international play.
The team boasts an all-time Olympic Games record of 122-5, which includes 13 gold medals to their credit. The Soviet Union has two gold medals in comparison.
But the one thing becoming increasingly clear over the past decade is the fact the field has caught up to Team USA talent wise and is much more competitive on the court.
While it’s way too early to talk in certainties, this year in particular, Team USA has become even more vulnerable.
The sudden vulnerability has nothing to do with on court talent and every bit to do with a rash of injuries the team will have to overcome in order to successfully defend their title.
The recent injuries have depleted their frontcourt depth.
In the past month All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge (hip) and Dwight Howard (back) have undergone season ending surgeries which effectively put them on the shelf for Olympic competition.
That’s 42 points and 22 rebounds of nightly production – gone.
Without a doubt, Olympic play is much different than the NBA game but you can’t discount the blow of losing a three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Howard roaming the paint, rebounding and altering shots on the inside.
Twenty finalists were selected for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Team earlier this year by Team USA basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo.
The absence of Aldridge and Howard in the frontcourt will now thrust guys such as New York’s Tyson Chandler, Minnesota’s Kevin Love and Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin into more prominent roles.
Colangelo will likely reach out to a few players to fill the voids left to the expected roster due to injury but there’s one prominent center that doesn’t have the Olympics on his summer agenda.
Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum, widely accepted as being the second best center in the NBA, plans on getting additional treatment on his legs over the summer which would eliminate him from consideration.
“Probably not,” Bynum told Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register on participating in the Olympics. “I’ve got to take care of my legs in the offseason. I’ve got some things [treatment] planned on my knees. I need it. I need to have some therapy.”
Colangelo must ultimately reduce the finalists to twelve players by June 1.
But it just isn’t the injuries to the frontcourt which is cause for concern.
Veteran point guard Chauncey Billups tore his Achilles tendon earlier this season and the rehab is expected to linger into the start of the 2013 NBA campaign.
Kobe Bryant, a player Team USA expects to lean on offensively and defensively, is shooting his lowest percentage (43%) from the field since 1998 and has missed significant time down the stretch battling a shin injury of his own.
Reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose has also missed 40 percent of Chicago’s games this season to an assortment of nagging ailments. He may opt to rest his body during the summer and even if he doesn’t is no guarantee to be completely injury free by the start of the Olympics.
New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon has played in only eight games this season due to knee and back issues. Gordon is a longshot for selection to begin with, but could opt to sit out the games to avoid further injury as he’s set to enter the offseason as a coveted free agent.
Another player not expected to don a Team USA uniform this summer is Lamar Odom.
Odom played center on the 2010 gold medal winning World Championship team, but has endured a tumultuous 2012 season.
Odom was traded by Los Angeles to Dallas at the start of the season and then placed on the inactive list by the Mavericks after failing to convince team owner Mark Cuban his heart was in it.
Miami HEAT guard Dwyane Wade has also missed time with various injuries throughout the season.
If games were won on paper, Team USA would ultimately be displaying gold medal number fourteen around their necks when it is all said and done.
But games must be won on the hardwood and Team USA at least from a physical standpoint appears to be like a championship boxer on the ropes waiting for their second breath kick in.
Who are the twelve guys you would roll with if you were Team USA basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo? Here are the remaining finalists. Leave your comments below.
Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Lamar Odom, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and Deron Williams.
Marcus Camby, Rockets A Long Term Union? The Houston Rockets have been searching to fill their void at center ever since it became apparent Yao Ming would be forced to retire because of recurring foot problems.
At the trade deadline the team sent projects Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet to Portland in exchange for veteran big man Marcus Camby.
Compared to Yao and Hakeem Olajuwon, the addition of Camby may not be the franchise player at center the team’s fan base has been craving but he’s played well since arriving to Houston.
In 17 contests with the Rockets, the 38 year old Camby is averaging 7.5 points and 9.4 rebounds in just 24 minutes per game.
Camby will be an unrestricted free agent this summer but if it were up to him he’d like finish his career with the Rockets.
“I want to stay,” Camby told ESPN’s Marc Stein. “I actually built a house from scratch in Houston like five years ago with the intentions of finishing my career down there. So it’s crazy how things play out. From the coaches and from management and my meetings I’ve had with them, I think they enjoy what I’ve been doing with my play and my leadership. I know from talking to my representative that there’s going to be a lot of suitors at the end of the season, but this is where I want to be. It’s something we’ll definitely address at the end of the season.”
The Rockets currently have about $41 million in salary commitments for the 2013 season already on the books. The salary cap will be no lower than $58 million next season so the team has some flexibility.
The team will likely make a strong run at current New Orleans center Chris Kaman in free agency, but Camby wouldn’t be a bad alternative in a reserve role playing 15-20 minutes per night.
It’s clear the veteran still has plenty of game left.