Team USA will play, in order, Venezuela, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and Brazil in group play. A final showdown with Argentina is probable, assuming both powers can escape the single-elimination tournament that follows group play.
Team USA brought 17 players for training from July 20 to July 22.
“Members of the USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team expected to participate in the July 20-22 training include: Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets); Shane Battier (Houston Rockets); Chauncey Billups (Detroit Pistons); Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors); Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers); Tyson Chandler (New Orleans Hornets); Kevin Durant (Seattle SuperSonics); Kirk Hinrich (Chicago Bulls); Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic); LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers); Jason Kidd (New Jersey Nets); Mike Miller (Memphis Grizzlies); Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons); Michael Redd (Milwaukee Bucks); J.J. Redick (Orlando Magic); Amaré Stoudemire (Phoenix Suns); and Deron Williams (Utah Jazz).”The roster must be trimmed to 12 for the actual tournament. With the options available, cuts won’t be easy. This is a very good group, with Redick being the only player that clearly doesn’t belong.
The players squared off in a scrimmage on July 22. Team Blue topped Team White 105-104 after Bryant’s game-winning shot with six seconds remaining.
Bryant’s presence is huge in light of the many recent disappointments of Team USA. Having Kidd, 28-0 all-time for Team USA run the show is also of paramount importance. Not all choices are so obvious though. Here’s one shot at what the 2007 version should look like:
C- Dwight Howard/Tyson Chandler
PF- Chris Bosh/Amare Stoudemire
SF- LeBron James/Tayshaun Prince/Kevin Durant
SG- Kobe Bryant/Michael Redd
PG- Jason Kidd/Chauncey Billups/Deron Williams
Cuts: Carmelo Anthony/Kirk Hinrich/Mike Miller/Shane Battier/J.J. Redick
The important thing to remember here is that there is more than one right answer for Team USA. With recent failures, it may seem like there aren’t any right answers. This is a very different group however, and great options are plentiful.
The glaring omission from the above team is Anthony, who was named 2006 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year.
I like Anthony, and would be confident about the team’s chances if he played a prominent role. Just like I’d have no huge qualms if Hinrich or Miller made the team. Again, there are multiple roster combinations that should bring the same result: victory.
I know Anthony is going to make the team. ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan told me as much:
“Alex (Milwaukee, Wisconsin): What are the chances Carmelo Anthony does not make the 12-man team? I know he's talented, and played well last year. But I like LeBron/Kobe/Kidd to start, and he shouldn't be coming off the bench. Plus, looking ahead to 2008 with Wade and company back in the mix, he probably won't be a good fit.And when I make my player rankings here before the regular season, he will be ahead some of the guys on my roster. But the whole idea behind the new Team USA is to put together the best team. And here’s why I believe I did that:
SportsNation Chris Sheridan: (12:10 PM ET ) He was by far, and I mean BY FAR, the best player on the 2006 team. He's a lock for 2008.
Howard and Chandler are givens at center for now. With Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer and others out of the mix for this competition, they are the only viable options. And good ones they are. Howard shot 9-9 from the field in the recent scrimmage and Chandler gives the team a strong defensive presence and shot-blocking ability.
I prefer the more natural power forwards in Bosh and Stoudemire rather than having Anthony take up a spot here. There are only four real post players in the group, so they all need to be there.
Next is a crowded small forward position. James is the best fit alongside Kidd and Bryant to start. Prince is a defensive stopper and an excellent team player; exactly the attributes necessary for coming off the bench on a team like this. Finally, Durant is a great pick for a few reasons. First, he’s good enough to play. This isn’t the case of bringing along someone that’s not ready at the expense of someone that is. And Durant, as a rookie, won’t expect big minutes, meaning he won’t be a threat to team-cohesiveness. Finally, it would be a great learning experience for a player that is likely to play a integral role for Team USA over the next decade.
Bryant obviously starts at shooting guard. Redd is the pick to back him up over Miller because he is a more dynamic offensive force and superior overall player.
Kidd already has taken a leadership role, putting his undefeated record on the line. Billups is another ultra-steady court general. Williams gets the nod over Hinrich because he is more likely to step up as a serious option for the 2008 Olympics.
There is more than one right answer for Team USA in 2007. But it’s important to examine the options carefully, because it will be a lot easier to slip up once the competition improves so greatly in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.