LAS VEGAS – The 2008 Beijing Olympic team no-showed en masse. Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) left because of insurance concerns with his contract. Robin Lopez(notes) walked out with back problems and David Lee(notes) lasted just one day before a finger injury scratched him from the roster.
Team USA’s pool of players for the world championships has dwindled in numbers – so much so that the remaining big men have reason to consider themselves endangered species.
Lee was the latest player to leave after injuring his right middle finger against the backboard while attempting to block a shot during the first day of Team USA’s minicamp. The Golden State Warriors, who just handed Lee a six-year, $80 million contract, informed USA Basketball on Tuesday that the All-Star will be sidelined six weeks and will miss the world championships. The New York Knicks withdrew Stoudemire on the eve of minicamp because of insurance issues, disappointing USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo because Stoudemire’s new $100 million contract with New York had been signed some 10 days earlier. Colangelo said USA Basketball has no plans to call in any replacements.
USA’s pool of players now includes Brook Lopez and two other centers, the Dallas Mavericks’ Tyson Chandler(notes) and Washington Wizards’ JaVale McGee(notes), and three power forwards: the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lamar Odom(notes), Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love(notes) and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Jeff Green(notes). While Lopez and Chandler are expected to make the final 12-man roster, Colangelo said the loss of Lee and Stoudemire doesn’t guarantee McGee a spot. Green’s chances were probably helped because he is versatile enough to play both forward positions.
‘‘Instead of being across the board, it’s all in one line,” USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said. ‘‘We’d rather have them here and make a [roster] decision based on them being here because all three of those guys are good. Robin may have been the blue-collar guy you wanted as the 12th guy or 11th guy. Amar’e and David would have had significant roles on the team.
‘‘It makes [the team] a little bit more perimeter oriented.”
The good news for the U.S. is that size probably won’t be as important in the tournament as it is in the NBA. Carmelo Anthony(notes) started at power forward for the gold-medal team in the Beijing Olympics while LeBron James(notes) also shared some minutes at the position. Odom and Love could even play center while Kevin Durant(notes) or Rudy Gay(notes) move to power forward. Krzyzewski said Team USA also could use three-guard lineups to take advantage of its deepest position.
The U.S. isn’t the only team facing a talent drain. Pau Gasol(notes) (Spain) and Dirk Nowitzki(notes) (Germany) won’t be playing for their respective national teams, leaving Gasol’s younger brother, Marc, a 7-foot-1 center for Spain as perhaps the best big man Team USA will face in the tournament.
‘‘The bigs that are here, we need to hold it down,” Chandler said.