In casting a wide net for candidates for its 2016 Olympic team, USA Basketball has handed out a slew of invites to new players for an upcoming minicamp in Las Vegas, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that USAB has extended invitations to Chicago‘s Jimmy Butler, Memphis ‘ Mike Conley, Golden State‘s Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, Orlando‘s Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo and Utah‘s Trey Burke to its Aug. 11-13 camp on the campus of UNLV.
USAB managing director Jerry Colangelo, meanwhile, tells ESPN.com that next month’s camp will actually serve as more of a “reunion” for various players who have worked under Colangelo and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski in the past two Olympic tournaments and the past two world championship-level events. As opposed to the full-scale practices and the intrasquad scrimmage that Team USA would typically hold in preparation for a major competition, Colangelo said Tuesday that next month’s gathering will instead feature two days of noncontact workouts and “an all-star game of sorts” on Aug. 13 that will feature the various marquee players in attendance who are healthy enough to play.
Yet Colangelo stressed that USA Basketball is making attendance at the three-day event mandatory for invited players if they are interested in securing a spot on the Yanks’ 12-man roster for next summer’s Olympics in Brazil, even if the player is rehabilitating from an injury or otherwise not yet cleared to join in on-court activities.
USAB already knows that Oklahoma City‘s Kevin Durant, Indiana‘s Paul George and the Cleveland Cavaliers duo of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving will not be ready to take part in basketball activities at the camp as they all continue to recover from their various serious injuries from the past year. But Colangelo’s view is that “it’s important for everyone to be here as a sign of commitment for ’16.”
After Duke‘s Krzyzewski pledged to keep coaching the national team through the 2016 Olympics, USA Basketball announced a 28-player pool in January 2014 to cover the ensuing three summers. The roster ultimately expanded to 34 players last summer thanks to a string of injuries and pullouts before the inaugural FIBA World Cup in Spain.
The complete list of invitees for the forthcoming camp from the original 34 and the seven aforementioned newcomers is still being finalized, but sources say several players from the national teams that represented the United States at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, as well as the 2010 FIBA World Championship, will also be given the chance to join in the Vegas festivities so USAB officials can take stock of who wants to compete for a 2016 Olympic berth.
“Basically, we’re looking for a time of reflection, celebration and being respectful of what we’ve accomplished with USA Basketball over the last decade,” Colangelo said. “And then to build on that, we want to get a read to see who’s committed for next year.
“I think it’s important for those who want to continue with us and be under consideration for ’16 to be with us in Las Vegas for a couple days. It’s going to be low key. Light workouts, no contact and then play an all-star game. No concern about competitiveness. We’re not evaluating anyone.”
Attendance will be compulsory, Colangelo said, because he contends that “there’s no other way to handle it,” given “the large of number of players who have expressed interest in wanting to play” in the Rio Games.
“It’s going to be a very difficult team to pick and get down to 12,” Colangelo said. “So we need to have them there because we need to find out where we are with everyone.”
The United States, thanks to last summer’s rout-filled run to the World Cup gold medal despite that slew of big-name absentees, became the first country in FIBA history to win four consecutive major international titles.
Yet the possibility that stars such as LeBron James, Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Blake Griffin – none of whom made the Spain trip – will want to return to the team and go to Brazil alongside World Cup stalwarts Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis and Irving helps illustrate the obvious challenges involved in settling on a 12-man group that will bid for a third successive Olympic gold medal after triumphs at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Aug. 1 marks the one-year anniversary of George’s gruesome compound leg fracture in the second half of a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage. Colangelo insists that the lighter nature of the on-court work planned for this minicamp is not a by-product of what happened to George, saying there is “no reason to have the competitive camp that we normally have when we don’t have any competition to prepare for.”
“The concept always was that this summer was going to be more of a celebration of where we’ve been over the last 10 years,” Colangelo said, “and then plan for the future as it relates to Rio in 2016.”
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