Griffin, Odom get shot at Team USA
Three big men on the bubble to make the USA Olympic basketball team will get additional shots to prove their worth.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Friday that late next week Blake Griffin of the Clippers and Lamar Odom of Dallas will head to Durham, NC, where they will have a workout under the watchful eyes of Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Colangelo also said center Anthony Davis, expected to be the NBA’s No. 1 pick next Thursday by New Orleans, was invited to join those two, but can’t because of obligations surrounding the draft. Davis will be in Las Vegas for a workout on July 4, however.
Griffin, Odom and Davis are among 18 finalists for the 12 Olympic spots this summer in London. All finalists are due to report to Las Vegas by July 5 for a training camp that runs through July 12.
Davis, who led Kentucky last April to a national title, is wanted for a longer look because he’s the only one of the Olympic finalists from college. Griffin had a sprained knee during the playoffs and has not recently been with USA Basketball. Odom is coming off a disastrous season, one that ended with him being deactivated by the Mavericks for the final nine regular season games and for the playoffs.
"We told them that it would behoove them to go out there (to Duke)," Colangelo said by phone from Paris, where he has been on a family vacation. "On Blake Griffin, we just felt that the sooner we got a chance to look at him, the better for us. . . . We want to see how he looks (after his injury). . . . Lamar Odom, he didn’t play this year."
Odom’s Olympic hopes had looked to be over after his troubled stint with Dallas, but Colangelo said he’s received reports that Odom’s looked good in recent workouts he’s set up on his own.
After losing Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge due to injuries, Team USA’s biggest concern is in the post. Other big men among the finalists are Chris Bosh and Tyson Chandler, who are locks for the team, along with Kevin Love.
Colangelo said he hasn’t heard that any Olympic finalists could drop out, but he anticipates knowing more next week when he touches base with all of them.
It’s possible Heat guard Dwyane Wade, a two-time Olympian who has battled a knee injury throughout the playoffs, could pull out. Colangelo said he hasn’t heard anything definitive yet about Wade, whose Heat eliminated Oklahoma City on Thursday to win the NBA title.
"I’ve heard all the conjecture about it, but I won’t speculate," said Colangelo, who was grateful the playoffs produced no additional serious injuries to finalists following Derrick Rose’s torn ACL on April 28, the first day of the postseason. "We’ll just have to adjust to whatever and whomever we have. It’s as simple as that."
Colangelo said he doesn’t have a specific deadline for any player who might be considering dropping out. But he doesn’t anticipate a scenario in which USA Basketball isn’t notified until just before the July 5 report date in Las Vegas. The final 12-man roster must be turned in July 8 after Team USA has had just two days of practice.
After Miami wrapped up the title, Colangelo sent congratulatory messages to the three winning Heat players who are Olympic finalists — LeBron James, Wade and Bosh. He also sent messages to the three Oklahoma City finalists — Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden — to commend them on their Finals appearance.
While there has been speculation Harden’s poor Finals performance could hurt his Olympic chances, Colangelo said he still deserves full consideration.
"James had a very difficult time in the Finals," Colangelo said. "But I’m expecting he will bounce back (in training camp)."
One issue that could affect training camp is guards Deron Williams and Eric Gordon becoming free agents July 1. Players can’t sign deals until July 11.
"That could affect Deron’s ability to scrimmage, but he would participate in everything else," Colangelo said of Williams’ time in camp prior to July 11. "I know that he wants to take care of his business the right way. . . . He’s paid his dues. We know what he can do."
Williams is considered a lock to make his second straight Olympic team. If Gordon, who is a long shot, chooses not to participate fully early in camp due to his free agency, that could hurt whatever chance he has.
"Everybody is affected by all these circumstances," Colangelo said. "If somebody chooses not to play, it might open up something for somebody else. If somebody doesn’t work out a contract situation, it might open up something for somebody else. You just have to deal with the cards you’re dealt."
The remaining finalists are Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iguodala and Rudy Gay.
Colangelo expressed additional gratitude for the US Olympic Committee last month agreeing to change the date the final roster is due from June 18 to July 8. Had the original date remained in place, which was between Games 3 and 4 of the Finals, Colangelo said the selection process would have been trying.