LAS VEGAS — The next version of Team USA will be chosen in late June, 2016, and there will be no alternates.
A dozen players will be named to the team, a training camp will be held in Las Vegas, and the team will take a domestic tour of the United States before traveling direct to Rio de Janeiro from Houston, Team USA executive director Jerry Colangelo told SheridanHoops.com Wednesday.
“We don’t want to have any cuts, we don’t want to have any hurt feelings. So we’re planning to pick the 12 and move straight into preparations for the Olympics,” Colangelo said.
That is a departure from past years, when Team USA would tend to bring as many as 20 players to Las Vegas, whittle the roster down little by little, then make the final cuts days before each tournament began. For example, in the weeks leading up to the 2010 World Championship in Turkey, the Americans left for their pre-tournament exhibition tour of Europe with Rajon Rondo penciled in as the starting point guard. That lasted just one game as Derrick Rose took over after the Americans scored only 8 points in the first quarter of an exhibition win over Lithuania, and Rondo was on a plane back to the United States shortly after the team traveled to Athens for the second stop on their tour.
Last summer, heading into the World Cup in Spain, there were 16 players on the roster when the team played its final exhibition game on home soil, defeating the Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden. The next day, Kyle Korver, Chandler Parsons, Damian Lillard and Gordon Hayward were informed that their services were no longer needed.
It is probably not a coincidence that Lillard and Korver are no longer part of the USA Basketball program. (Korver told me in April that he did not watch a single game of the competition last summer because he was so upset at being cut). Lillard declined an invitation to attend this year’s minicamp, feeling (rightfully so) that he should have made the 2014 team over Derrick Rose, who was terrible during the tournament in Spain.
Colangelo said the team his plan for now is to name the 12-man roster at a gala event in New York sometime around the NBA draft. He said USA Basketball has been holding preliminary discussions about playing exhibitions in Las Vegas, Oakland, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston, with other cities possibly in the mix.
Then it will be off to Rio, where the slaughterfest will begin.
Nine teams from the 12-team Olympic field will be determined this summer, beginning with the FIBA Oceania championship Saturday between Australia and New Zealand. Brazil, the host country, and Team USA, the defending World Champions, have already secured berths.
Two spots will be determined at the FIBA-Americas tournament in Mexico City from Aug. 31-Sept. 12, two teams will come out of Eurobasket Sept. 5-20, one team from the Afrobasket tournament in Tunisia Aug. 20-30, and one team from the FIBA-Asia tournament Sept. 23-Oct. 3 in Changsha, China.
In a format change announced by FIBA earlier this week, the final three spots will be determined in a set of three tournaments to be held as sites yet to be determined, with six teams in each tournament — meaning 18 teams will have a second chance to qualify.
But let’s be real: They’ll all be competing for the silver medal.
Team USA has put together the strongest player pool in its history, and I am already on record as saying 10 players should be considered locks to make the team: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard.
As I reported exclusively yesterday, there is a chance that Kobe Bryant could be named to the roster. But even if he isn’t, the competition for the 11th and 12th spots should be interesting, with James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Rudy Gay and Kevin Love among the bubble guys.
Whoever does not make it will not have to endure the public humiliation of being cut from the team at the last minute.
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.