Team USA to look at filling Howard’s void

MIAMI — The Olympic hoops ranks are getting thin. And USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo hasn’t ruled out restocking them.

The Orlando Magic on Thursday night confirmed center Dwight Howard will undergo back surgery, ending his season with the team and likely knocking him out of the 2012 Olympics. With that, four players now look to have been scratched from the list of 20 finalists for the London Games this summer. Injured Chauncey Billups is definitely out, LaMarcus Aldridge is likely out due to injury, and Lamar Odom has been eliminated from consideration after being made inactive the rest of the season by Dallas.

“We’ve talked about injuries,” Colangelo said in a phone interview. “Obviously, if our ranks are really thinned we wouldn’t rule out adding some additional people. But it’s too early to say that we will do that.”

Colangelo said he wants to learn more about Howard’s situation. Regardless, the topic of possibly adding Olympic finalists will come up May 1 when he meets with the US team’s coaching staff in Las Vegas.

“That’s only a week-and-a-half away, and we’ll address that,” Colangelo said.

If Howard, Aldridge and Odom are taken off the list, the US team suddenly is thin in the post. The only other big men on the list are Tyson Chandler, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love (who has been out recently with a concussion) and Blake Griffin.

Without referring to any specific position, Colangelo said USA Basketball would “address it” if it’s felt the team is too short at a spot. While Lakers center Andrew Bynum could be a possible candidate to be added, Colangelo wouldn’t confirm any names.

“If there is a candidate out there, we’ll have private discussions,” Colangelo said about the possibility of adding someone.

Colangelo said 20 finalists were named in January in the anticipation that things happen during an NBA season.

“We’re going to continue to take inventory as to where things stand,” Colangelo said.

In addition to Chandler, Love, Bosh and Griffin, the other Olympic finalists are Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams.

Two of those finalists, James and Wade, expressed concern for Howard after the Miami Heat’s victory over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night, while also acknowledging they do not expect to play with him this summer in London.

“It sucks, honestly for him, first of all,” James said. “We all know he’s a guy who’s pretty much been durable throughout his NBA career so far, and there for the Magic or our team. He’s a big part of our team in the Olympics, and I hate to lose him because of an injury. I wish him the best and hope he gets back to full strength.”

Added Wade: “It’s very unfortunate, one of the great players in our game. You never want to see anyone go through an injury. Obviously, we’re sure he will bounce back. One thing about this league, we have some of the best doctors and trainers. It’s very unfortunate for him and his family. I’m sure Orlando will miss him and the Olympic team is going to miss him. But the biggest thing is that he gets healthy and he’ll get back to be an amazing player he is for this game.”