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U.S. begins search for next Olympic team

Marc J. Spears
Yahoo Sports

Even as confident as Jerry Colangelo is that the United States will retain most of the core of its gold-medal Olympic team, the USA Basketball chairman concedes this week's minicamp will be important for helping identify the program's next wave of talent.

Colangelo told Yahoo! Sports in a recent interview he still expects most of the roster from last summer's Beijing Olympics to return for the 2010 World Championships and the 2012 Olympics. Among the players he expects to return are: Kobe Bryant(notes), LeBron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes), Dwight Howard(notes), Chris Paul(notes), Carmelo Anthony(notes), Chris Bosh(notes) and Deron Williams(notes).

Even so, fatigue, free agency and injury could end up changing a star's mind next summer.

"Generally speaking, you can expect turnover and there should be," Colangelo said. "That's part of the pipeline. But a number of them say they want to come back.

"I haven't talked to them lately. But I talked to them all during All-Star break [in Phoenix] and laid out a plan. If it's my decision, I want them for two years, 2010 and 2012. 'What do you think? How do you feel?' They all said, 'Let's do it.' The World Championships are held in high esteem. The guys who played in Japan [in the 2008 World Championships] still remember losing to Greece. It's not like we're starting from scratch."

One major challenge for USA Basketball is keeping its stars interested after last summer's success. Wade, Anthony and James have played for the national team since the 2004 Athens Olympics. Bryant will be 32 years old during the World Championships next year in Turkey.

Colangelo, however, has several reasons to believe the U.S. stars will live up to their word. One is that many of those players appear to have thoroughly loved the rare experience to be teammates and would hate to miss out on another opportunity to make more history. They also won't be lacking for a challenge: The United States hasn't won the World Championships since 1994.

"I will only be 27 years old," Anthony said during the 2008 Olympics. "I want all the gold medals I can get throughout my career."

The opportunity to play in the 2012 Olympics in London is an easy recruiting pitch. But will those same players show similar enthusiasm for a long trip to Turkey and the Worlds' lengthy 24-team tournament? Colangelo has been trying to sell to his stars that some nations consider the World Championships to be a more prestigious event than the Olympics.

"We have some unfinished business," Colangelo said. "That's the theme. Let's take care of that with the next step being the Olympics. It's one thing to get to the Olympics; it's another to defend it. We're taking it one step at a time."

U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his assistant coaching staff of Mike D'Antoni, Nate McMillan and Jim Boeheim have already committed to return. USA Basketball is expected to make the announcement during a news conference this week in Las Vegas.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it," Colangelo said. "There is a good thing in place. You don't want to make change."

A Chicago native, Colangelo also is on the committee to try to bring the 2016 Olympics to the Windy City. He can envision some of the younger players from last summer's gold-medal team competing seven years from now. But even if most of the veteran U.S. stars return for the 2012 London Games, there will be at least four new players on the roster. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant(notes) is expected to be a lock. Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy(notes), who isn't expected to participate in the minicamp, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose(notes), Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger(notes) and Los Angeles Clippers rookie forward Blake Griffin(notes) should be also among the top candidates competing for roster spots.

"The talent will be outstanding," Colangelo said. " … I'm excited to see them work together with one another."