Losses pile up for US as Westbrook, Harden pass on Olympics

Losses pile up for US as Westbrook, Harden pass on Olympics

Published Jun. 11, 2016 3:55 p.m. ET

Russell Westbrook and James Harden chose staying home over going for gold.

And as the losses pile up, the U.S. Olympic basketball team has to hope it still has enough to win when it gets to Rio.

Just in case, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo isn't ruling out adding a point guard to his dwindling roster.

Days after Stephen Curry announced he wouldn't play, Westbrook and Harden pulled out Friday, further weakening a backcourt that was expected to be a strength.


"It puts more emphasis now on what was a real strong position for us," Colangelo said Saturday.

Westbrook and Harden played for the U.S. when it won gold in the 2012 Olympics, and both had also won a world championship.

"I have been extremely blessed to wear the 'red, white, and blue' and to compete at the highest international level with the greatest players representing the greatest country in the world," Harden said in a statement released by the Houston Rockets. "I sincerely hope I'll earn an opportunity to represent Team USA again in the future."

Colangelo said Harden felt he didn't have a strong season and wanted to remain in Houston to prepare for 2016-17 under new coach Mike D'Antoni. He said he hadn't spoken directly to Westbrook, but believed he was getting married and just wanted a breather.

Before that, Colangelo said every player who had pulled out so far, which includes forwards Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, had done so because of injury.

But the Zika virus is also a concern in Brazil, which has been hit hard by the mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to severe birth defects and possible neurological problems in adults. Spain star Pau Gasol had recently said he was considering skipping the Olympics for that reason.

Colangelo said USA Basketball is in touch with player agents, getting them information about whatever concerns they have.

"If we didn't feel comfortable and secure and safe that'd be a different story, but it's just the reverse," Colangelo said.

Andrew Wiggins also said Friday he wouldn't play for Canada, which needs to win a qualifying tournament in July to earn an Olympic berth. Instead, he wants to remain in Minnesota to prepare for the Timberwolves' first season under Tom Thibodeau.

Thibodeau will be in Rio as an assistant to U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, but it's getting harder to figure out what players will be there.

Colangelo knew there would be absences, which is why he assembled such a pool of 31 players. He plans to pick the 12 bound for Brazil on June 27 and is still awaiting word from LeBron James, who isn't expected to decide on a fourth Olympics until after the NBA Finals.

Curry made up his mind Monday, saying he wanted to rest recent knee and ankle injuries.

He and Harden were the NBA's top two scorers this season. Curry and Westbrook were the first-team guards on the All-NBA team.

And with Chris Paul and John Wall already having been ruled out, the Americans are suddenly down to just Cleveland's Kyrie Irving -- the MVP of the 2014 Basketball World Cup -- Portland's Damian Lillard and Memphis' Mike Conley at point guard.

Colangelo said the Americans were "very interested in" Lillard, who was the last player cut before the tournament in Spain and then the final player added to the roster pool for Rio. Neither he nor Conley have played for the Americans.

Colangelo didn't say which other point guards might be considered, saying it would be unfair to speak about any individuals before the team is selected. But he said the Americans were confident they could add if they needed -- and they just might the way things are going.

"It's kind of important that we move forward," he said.