Team USA Basketball Finalizes Olympic Team Roster For London Games
CBS Sports Ben Golliver with a look at the final roster cuts as Team USA prepares to head to London Olympics :
LAS VEGAS — Ready for the world.
USA Basketball announced its final 12-man roster for the 2012 London Olympics at the Wynn Casino on Saturday, setting the team that will travel on an international tour over the next few weeks.
Entering Saturday’s announcement, 10 of the 12 roster spots were assumed to be locks, with 2008 Olympics Gold Medalists LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams leading the way, joined by 2010 World Championships Gold Medalists Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler, plus Team USA newcomer Blake Griffin.
After deliberation between USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo and a coaching staff led by Mike Krzyzewski, the roster’s final two spots went to Philadelphia 76ers forward Andre Iguodala and Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden, according to the Associated Press.
That left New Orleans Hornets forward Anthony Davis, Hornets guard Eric Gordon and Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay left as the team’s “cuts” from its group of 15 finalists. All three will remain on stand-by in the event of injury.
Here’s how the full 12-man roster — which will be headlined by the trio of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant — breaks down.
Kobe Bryant — age 33 — Los Angeles Lakers: Back to defend his Gold Medal, Bryant stands as the leading veteran voice of the group. He’s joked in recent weeks that he will let the younger guys do the heavy lifting while he focuses on closing games, but deferring has never been in his vocabulary. Krzyzewski said on Friday that Bryant enters Olympics play in excellent health and shape.
James Harden — age 22 — Oklahoma City Thunder: The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year is getting his first real look for Team USA and he impressed Krzyzewski with his feel for the game and his basketball intelligence. With players like Dwyane Wade and, eventually, Bryant on their way out, he figures to be a national team mainstay going forward.
Chris Paul — age 27 — Los Angeles Clippers: A minor thumb injury forced Paul from practice on Friday, although it’s not expected to be anything serious. He was slowed by a naggging groin injury during the playoffs so it’s been awhile since we’ve seen Paul play to the best of his abilities. He’ll fill a play-making role for Team USA given the bevy of A-list scoring options that will surround him.
Russell Westbrook — age 23 — Oklahoma City Thunder: The explosive, relentless Westbrook will bring his constantly attacking style off of Team USA’s bench. Bryant said Friday he envisions Westbrook plugging the reserve scorer’s role left by Dwyane Wade’s absence due to a knee injury. Despite an often spectacular playoffs stretch and top-shelf play during the 2010 World Championships in Turkey, there’s a decent chance the rest of the world isn’t ready for him.
Deron Williams — age 28 — Brooklyn Nets: Like Paul, Williams will play the facilitator’s role. Team USA is emphasizing up-tempo play and pick-and-rolls, two areas where Williams can excel. He’s sidelined from live play until his new 5-year, $98 million contract with the Nets goes final on July 11.
Carmelo Anthony — age 28 — New York Knicks: Of the returning members of the 2008 squad, Anthony’s role is the least clear. He’s facing a logjam at his position thanks to James and Durant and he is coming off an up-and-down season with the Knicks, in which he drew criticism for his ball-stopping and which saw Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, a Team USA assistant, resign. Still, Anthony’s finishing ability was of paramount importance in Beijing and he should be able to find plenty of minutes when Team USA switches to smaller looks.
Kevin Durant — age 23 — Oklahoma City Thunder: Arguably the world’s second-best player, Durant comes to Team USA smarting from a loss to James’ Heat in the 2012 Finals just weeks ago. Ever the professional, he spent the first day of practice explaining how Team USA functioned so well because egos are tossed aside and he sounded eager to win his first Gold Medal. Expect the NBA’s leading scorer to be a focal point of the offense.
Blake Griffin — age 23 — Los Angeles Clippers: Griffin missed out on the 2010 World Championships because of a knee injury and is poised to take his high-flying, gravity-defying game to the international stage. Not known as a premier defender and with limited range, he’ll likely be used as a deep reserve, although Team USA can use his rebounding ability.
Andre Iguodala — age 28 — Philadelphia 76ers: One of the NBA’s premier perimeter defenders, Iguodala fills a valuable niche as a lockdown guy who can complement some of the roster’s score-first wings.
LeBron James — age 27 — Miami Heat: The biggest star in the basketball galxy and the best player on the planet, James heads to London at the peak of his powers and fresh off his first title. He seems at ease with his Team USA teammates and is clearly the central personality off the court. He’ll be asked to do it all for Team USA and could potentially play all five positions during the Olympics. He said on Friday that he is ready to embrace the challenge.
Kevin Love — age 23 — Minnesota Timberwolves: Love’s game has improved and expanded by leaps and bounds in recent years and his outside shooting prowess could be a deadly weapon and match-up nightmare for teams in the Olympics. Expect him to swing up to center at times to make full use of his elite rebounding and outlet-passing. Indeed, there’s a 100 percent chance that one of his patented touchdown passes finds itself in a highlight loop nxt month.
Tyson Chandler — age 29 — New York Knicks: This defense and rebounding specialist simply makes every team that he plays for better. He’ll be key in matching up with Spain’s length and his shot-blocking ability will dissuade opponents from attacking USA’s interior. The knock on Chandler has been foul troubles and he’ll need to play smart without any real positional depth behind him.
Anthony Davis — age 19 — New Orleans Hornets: The 2012 NBA Draft’s No. 1 pick sprained his ankle just before Team USA minicamp opened, putting his availability into question for the next few weeks. On Friday, Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo questioned whether he had the “physicality” to compete at the moment. As the most promising young big man since Dwight Howard, Davis figures to be a Team USA regular for the next decade.
Rudy Gay — age 25 — Memphis Grizzlies: He would have been a big, long, athletic wing on a team full of them, Gay would mostly be injury insurance. His range and height make him a tough cover for the international competition but he probably would have done most of his work waiving towels.
Eric Gordon — age 23 — New Orleans Hornets (restricted free agent): Despite being in the middle of ongoing contract negotiations, Gordon impressed Krzyzewski by showing up on Friday and agreeing to compete in all 5-on-5 drills. A knockdown shooter with the abilty to create his own shot, Gordon hasn’t seen much court time recently due to a knee injury that sidelined him for much of last season.