Posted: Tuesday January 3, 2006 11:21AM; Updated: Tuesday January 3, 2006 6:15PM
The next U.S. Olympic men's basketball team hopes players like Michael Redd will provide the flexibility it has so desperately needed.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Marty Burns will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
Kobe Bryant has received the call. So has LeBron James. Allen Iverson might get his this week.
Yes, it's time to start thinking about the Olympics again. USA Basketball has begun the process of putting together the team that will compete in Beijing in 2008. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski already has been named coach. Now it's just a matter of finding players.
Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo, who has been given charge of putting together the men's senior team, has reportedly contacted 30 to 35 NBA players and is expected to announce a core group of six to 12 by the end of the month. No player has been officially named to the team just yet. But Bryant and James are among the handful who have confirmed that they have been contacted.
"I feel pretty good about it," James said recently. "I think most likely if I decide to be part of the team, I think it will be much better experience than it was two summers ago."
"[Colangelo] said he and Coach K are excited to have me play on the team," Bryant told the Orange County Register. "He wanted to know where I stood as far as my commitment and time. I just told him: It's not a problem to me. Whatever you need me to do, I'll do. I'll be there. The important thing is us getting that gold back."
Embarrassed by its bronze medal finish in the '04 Games (and a sixth-place finish at the World Championships in '02) USA Basketball is changing the way it goes about putting together the next Team USA. Gone are the days when the U.S. team would consist of 12 NBA All-Stars thrown together for a month. This next Olympic team, Colangelo vows, will consist of the right mix of players. It will also require players to give a three-year commitment in some form, with some likely to be asked to compete at the '06 World Championships in Japan.
"The international game is a lot different game than people truly recognize," Colangelo said when he took the post last April. "It's more than just the trapezoid lane compared to our lane. It's a different game, and so as you prepare a team you need role players, you need players who can shoot the ball, pass the ball and understand the game as much as you need players who are just athletic."
In other words, the 2008 Olympic team might have a few lesser-known guys playing alongside bigger-name stars like Kobe and LeBron. Think Michael Redd, Kirk Hinrich, Shane Battier, Brad Miller. Maybe even a Brian Cardinal.
Some of the NBA's biggest names, in fact, have appeared lukewarm to the idea of playing in '08 -- especially if it involves a three-year commitment. Shaq, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, for example, are all considered unlikely to participate. Each has represented the U.S. in previous Olympics.