LAS VEGAS — Kobe Bryant has a chance to be a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, even though he is not attending Team USA’s minicamp this week, USA Basketball Executive Director Jerry Colangelo told SheridanHoops Tuesday.
“If he had a great year, it would be a great story for him to try to close out his career by winning a gold medal,” Colangelo said.
Bryant and Colangelo actually discussed the possibility in June during an NBA/USAB sponsorship conference in New York. Colangelo made no promises or guarantees, but made it clear to Bryant that if he is able to compete at a high level during the 2015-16 season, the door will be open for him to return to Team USA.
“The thing is, he’s going to have a lot of competition,” Colangelo said as 34 players took part in Day One of training camp, going through light shooting drills before a packed auditorium on the campus of UNLV.
As I outlined yesterday, a strong case can be made that 10 of the 12 available roster spots could already be accounted for based upon length of service with Team USA, past accomplishments, recent accomplishments and roster needs. My 10 “locks” — barring injuries or other extenuating circumstances — are LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving.
There is no shortage of legitimate contenders for those final two roster spots, and Colangelo and Krzyzewski actually have an embarrassment of riches on their hands during this three-day minicamp that will conclude with a public scrimmage Thursday night at the Thomas and Mack Center (I’ll set the over/under at 312 1/2 for the 40-minute scrimmage at which defense with be as non-existent as it is at your typical NBA All-Star game).
But the one player who is not in attendance who could change the equation is Bryant, who has not yet said whether next season will be his last — although it will be his final season under contract to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant will turn 38 years old on Aug. 23, 2016 — two days after the gold medal game in Rio. He has missed most of the past two seasons due to a torn Achilles tendon, a fractured kneecap and a torn rotator cuff.
Team USA worked out for about two hours, and much of the focus was directed at Kevin Durant, who is coming back from a broken bone in his foot and was moving comfortably. Like Carmelo Anthony, who is recovering from knee surgery and also appeared to be moving well and playing pain-free, Durant has not yet started scrimmaging 5-on-5 but said he expects to be ready to do so soon. Anthony said his timetable for full-court activity is by the end of this month.
Durant, who wore a large black brace on his right foot, said he spent the spring playing Y2K video games and watching the NBA playoffs — even though he had promised himself he would not.
Durant also revealed that he spoke to Sixers center Joel Embiid about his upcoming foot surgery, telling him the hardest part would come in the days immediately after the surgery when he will be unable to walk on the surgically repaired foot. “He’s going to miss stuff that he takes for granted — just walking around the house, being able to take a shower. But I told him he could reach out to me any time he wanted to.”
Durant sounded as though he will be ready to play on opening night, but he would not address in any detail his upcoming free agency. There is a widespread belief around the NBA that Durant will leave Oklahoma City next summer if the Thunder do not win a championship, but Durant steered clear of any meaningful answers when those subjects were broached.
Anthony, meanwhile, was in good spirits and even took the time to reflect back on his most vivid memory as a member of Team USA — an 11-year stint in which he has played at the World Championship in Japan, along with the Athens, Beijing and London Olympics.
“It was 2004, stepping onto the bronze medal stand in Athens, knowing we had failed to accomplish what we set out to accomplish,” Anthony said. As for his most vivid positive memory, he cited winning the gold medal in Beijing in 2008, ending Team USA’s eight-year drought of failing to win a gold medal at the 2002 and 2006 Worlds and the 2004 Olympics.
It should be noted that one of Anthony’s teammates on that gold-medal winning Beijing team was Bryant. Same thing in London in 2012.
And looking ahead to next August, it is not out of the question that Anthony and Bryant will be back together atop the gold medal podium.
As Colangelo said, it has already been discussed.
Chris Sheridan is the publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. He has covered every senior U.S. men’s national team since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Follow him on Twitter.