Team USA takes beating before taking the floor
The U.S. men's basketball team, at one point overflowing with All-Stars, is now oozing something else — injuries.
Derrick Rose won't be available for the Olympics because of a knee injury. Same for LaMarcus Aldridge because of hip surgery. Dwight Howard won't be at Team USA's July 29 Olympic debut after undergoing back surgery. Chauncey Billups is out because of a torn Achilles' tendon.
The pain is just beginning.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum said he'd rather rest after a ridiculously condensed NBA season than risk injury, leaving Team USA to face the world with Tyson Chandler at center.
Miami guard Dwyane Wade recently said he would skip the Olympics if he wasn't 100% healthy. Miami forward Chris Bosh has missed substantial playoff time because of an abdominal strain.
How bad is it? The sullied Lamar Odom might try to answer the Olympic call after his worst season as a pro, a shoddy run that culminated with his deactivation from the Dallas Mavericks' roster.
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Players have dropped out so quickly that Team USA received a three-week extension from the USOC to submit its final roster July 8.
"It's tough. Of course you'd love all those [injured] guys to be there," Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant said. "But we've got the guys we have and we'll go in there and compete."
One-third of the U.S. team might be Thunder players, important because they're all seemingly young, fast and, yes, healthy. Russell Westbrook and James Harden could join Durant when the pool of 18 players officially gets pared down to 12 next month.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had late-season injuries but looked healthy enough to play in the Olympics the last anybody checked. So is Kobe Bryant, even though he'll go to Germany this summer to again have an innovative, noninvasive procedure on his historically ailing right knee.
LeBron James still planned to be there, as did Rudy Gay, Deron Williams, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Love.
The only thing hurting Carmelo Anthony is his ego after the New York Knicks' quick exit from the playoffs. Eric Gordon missed most of the season because of a knee injury but averaged 20.4 points in April.
Thanks to the brutal lockout-condensed schedule (66 regular-season games in 121 days and, for added fun, some back-to-backs for playoff teams), the most rested player won't even belong to the NBA. Kentucky center Anthony Davis, the only college player on the U.S. roster, was last seen in a competitive game when the Wildcats won the NCAA championship in early April.
Of course, nobody feels sorry for the U.S., which won its pool games by an average of 32 points in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and beat Spain by 11 for the gold medal, its smallest margin of victory in the competition.
San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw offered a verbal eye roll when asked about the shrinking USA roster.
"The U.S. will still be fine," said Diaw, a member of the improved French team. "If we lost three of our major players, then it's really tough. A market like the U.S., they've got so many players. Look at their All-Star teams. They're going to be good anyway. It might be a different set-up, a different way to play, but that will be up to the coaches."
France's nucleus of Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Nicolas Batum, Ronny Turiaf and Diaw has remained healthy, but the U.S. isn't the only team with injury complaints.
Spain was handed a severe medical setback when Ricky Rubio sustained a torn knee ligament in March. It'll be up to the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, to get Spain back to the gold-medal game.
Healthy or not, Team USA begins play in seven weeks against France.
"It's definitely unfortunate that all those guys are not able to go out and represent our country," Westbrook said. "It's going to be tough enough with the group of guys we have that are able to play."