Tough decisions await Colangelo as he pares down Team USA roster
On June 1, Jerry Colangelo, director of USA Basketball, will finalize Olympic team
He has wealth of talent to choose from and said team will be blend of 2008, '10
Kevin Durant, Lebron James are near-locks, but not all decisions will be easy
When Jerry Colangelo took over USA Basketball in 2005, he inherited a program that had bottomed out. The team was not only mediocre, finishing third at the 2004 Olympics, it was undesirable: Between the '03 qualifying tournament and the '04 Games, 14 players passed on an opportunity to play.
"The way they conducted themselves," Colangelo told SI in 2009, "left a lot to be desired."
Fast forward to 2012. The U.S. is the defending Olympic champion and the defending world champs. Spearheaded by Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the United States is once again a basketball super power. The USA Basketball jersey is cool again; suddenly, everyone wants to wear it.
Which has presented Colangelo with a new problem. On June 1, Colangelo told SI.com, the U.S. will announce a 12-man roster, along with six alternates, from the 20-man pool the team released in January. Unlike year's past, Colangelo and his staff won't have a mini camp to evaluate players before selecting a roster. Unlike years past, no one is backing out.
"Call it a high-class problem, if you will," Colangelo said in a telephone interview. "When you set out to turn something around like I did in 2005, the last thing you are thinking about is a circumstance like we have today. It's terrific to see that players see the value in representing their country."
Colangelo says the U.S. staff will meet for a few days in early May to formally discuss the roster. Once it's finalized, the U.S. will hold training camps in Las Vegas (July 6-12) and Washington, D.C. (July 13-15) before traveling to Manchester, England and Barcelona for exhibition games.
Colangelo reiterated that the 2012 team will be a blend of the '08 Olympic team and the '10 World Championship squad. And he hinted at what he'll be looking for during the selection process.
"Most people would say you need shooters because of the zone defenses," Colangelo said. "And to some degree that is true. But we're not varying from our concept. Basketball is the ultimate team game. We need players willing to sacrifice their own games. [In 2010] Coach K went with a seven or eight-man rotation. With this roster, in my opinion, he can go with all 12 if he chooses. He and I have had this conversation over and over: Players may be used different this time around.
"Size is still an issue. Without being specific, we have to figure out if we carry three centers or two. With the type of wing players out there, defenders are really important, too. But there is so much talent. Guys have worked really hard to improve. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love -- they have moved to a whole other level."
Colangelo said that because of the strain the shortened NBA season is having on players, the U.S. team will scale back its workload.
"There will never be overkill on the players as it relates to practices, games and minutes," Colangelo said. "We are very careful. These individuals are very important assets to their teams and to the NBA. This has been an unusual season. How we conduct our camp and our games leading up to the Olympics will be modified."
Earlier this week Heat guard Dwyane Wade suggested that U.S. players should be better compensated for playing in the Olympics. Currently, the U.S. Olympic Committee rewards athletes $25,000 for winning a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver and $10,000 for a bronze. Colangelo suggested that anything more was unlikely to come.
"USA basketball has always had difficulties paying its own bills to support all of the programs," Colangelo said. "There is not a big pot of money that is available. Because it is all of the programs. It's the 16-, 17-, 18- and 19-and-under teams, the World University games. We were able to quadruple revenues from 2004-08 but all that did was [help us] break even. But we are a global game and most players are involved with shoe and apparel contracts. Their involvement with USA basketball helps build their brand."
Of course, Wade doesn't expect to be paid. And it has not diminished his -- or anyone else's, for that matter -- desire to be on the team. For Colangelo, paring down the 20-man pool won't be easy -- only Chauncey Billups (Achilles surgery) and Lamar Odom (personal issues) seem like easy decisions -- but it's a dilemma he is happy to have.
"It's pretty obvious we now have plenty of people who want to play," Colangelo said. "That's a tribute to everyone who has been involved."
SI.com's Chris Mannix picks his Dream Team for 2012 from the pool of 20 finalists.
Kevin Durant -- The leading scorer from 2010 (22.8 points per game) is a lock.
LeBron James -- James' versatility and playmaking are huge assets in international competitions.
Kevin Love -- A Colangelo favorite, Love's improved three-point shooting makes him even more valuable.
Dwyane Wade -- Wade led a balanced 2008 U.S. team in scoring (16.0) and free-throw attempts (41).
Dwight Howard -- Howard struggled defending perimeter-oriented big men in '08 but is still a force in the paint.
Andre Iguodala -- Colangelo puts a premium on wing defenders and players with equity in the team. Iguodala is an elite defender who has been in the program since 2002.
Derrick Rose -- The reigning NBA MVP led the '10 team in assists (29) and has significantly improved his perimeter game.
Kobe Bryant -- In addition to leadership and clutch shooting, Bryant's commitment to defense in Beijing was contagious.
Chris Paul -- Paul's ability to digest and deploy Krzyzewski's offense will again be a critical part of the U.S. team's success.
Tyson Chandler -- Athletic, defensive-minded, unselfish, Chandler is an ideal fit on a team loaded with scorers.
Carmelo Anthony -- The 6-foot-8, 230-pound Anthony can play both forward spots in the international game and score from the inside or out.
Deron Williams -- Williams's pending free agency could be an issue. If available, Williams's more controlled style gives him an edge in a deep point guard pool.