Team USA’s future takes shape in Vegas
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
LAS VEGAS — USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo’s plan to infuse the men’s national team with new talent moves forward this week.
Forwards Paul George of the Indiana Pacers and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Hornets and guards Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers and 2012-13 rookie of the year Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers are among the 30 players, including two college players, invited to Team USA’s four-day camp, which begins Monday and concludes Thursday with a scrimmage.
The camp is the first step toward preparations for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (formerly the world championships) in Spain and, beyond that, a very early look at candidates for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
In Colangelo’s best-case plan, next summer’s team will be a mix of players from the 2012 Olympic gold medal team and players — who have minimal national team experience — from this camp.
“That’s part of this program, to keep the pipeline filled with talent and as new players are indoctrinated into the program, that’s when we go through the selection process,” Colangelo said. “This is bringing 30 players into a mini-camp that gives us an opportunity to get to know them a little bit.
“Obviously, we know them as players. But it goes beyond that. We need to see who fits in and what’s a good feel. And this year, we have a couple of new coaches to assimilate also. We want to just break them into our program.”
Colangelo told USA TODAY Sports that Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love have expressed interest in playing.
“I don’t solicit nor am I looking for early commitments or anything like that because time and circumstances change things,” Colangelo said. “But those two have indicated they would very much like to play next summer. I don’t know how many others at this point because I haven’t inquired.”
Colangelo has generated interest and continuity at USA Basketball. There is a balance of holdovers and newcomers in the system. For instance, LeBron James won’t play in the world’s next summer, but … [For more on Team USA's basketball future takes shape in Las Vegas, click here.]