Tough decisions await Colangelo as he pares down Team USA roster
When Jerry Colangelo took over USA Basketball in 2005, he inherited a program that had bottomed out. The team was not only mediocre, finishing third at the 2004 Olympics, it was undesirable: Between the '03 qualifying tournament and the '04 Games, 14 players passed on an opportunity to play.
"The way they conducted themselves," Colangelo told SI in 2009, "left a lot to be desired."
Fast forward to 2012. The U.S. is the defending Olympic champion and the defending world champs. Spearheaded by Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the United States is once again a basketball super power. The USA Basketball jersey is cool again; suddenly, everyone wants to wear it.
Which has presented Colangelo with a new problem. On June 1, Colangelo told SI.com, the U.S. will announce a 12-man roster, along with six alternates, from the 20-man pool the team released in January. Unlike year's past, Colangelo and his staff won't have a mini camp to evaluate players before selecting a roster. Unlike years past, no one is backing out.
"Call it a high-class problem, if you will," Colangelo said in a telephone interview. "When you set out to turn something around like I did in 2005, the last thing you are thinking about is a circumstance like we have today. It's terrific to see that players see the value in representing their country."
Colangelo says the U.S. staff will meet for a few days in early May to formally discuss the roster. Once it's finalized, the U.S. will hold training camps in Las Vegas (July 6-12) and Washington, D.C. (July 13-15) before traveling to Manchester, England and Barcelona for exhibition games.
Colangelo reiterated that the 2012 team will be a blend of the '08 Olympic team and the '10 World Championship squad. And he hinted at what he'll be looking for during the selection process.
"Most people would say you need shooters because of the zone defenses," Colangelo said. "And to some degree that is true. But we're not varying from our concept. Basketball is the ultimate team game. We need players willing to sacrifice their own games. [In 2010] Coach K went with a seven or eight-man rotation. With this roster, in my opinion, he can go with all 12 if he chooses. He and I have had this conversation over and over: Players may be used different this time around.
"Size is still an issue. Without being specific, we have to figure out if we carry three centers or two. With the type of wing players out there, defenders are really important, too. But there is so much talent. Guys have worked really hard to improve. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love -- they have moved to a whole other level."
Colangelo said that because of the strain the shortened NBA season is having on players, the U.S. team will scale back its workload.
"There will never be overkill on the players as it relates to practices, games and minutes," Colangelo said. "We are very careful. These individuals are very important assets to their teams and to the NBA. This has been an unusual season. How we conduct our camp and our games leading up to the Olympics will be modified."
Earlier this week Heat guard Dwyane Wade suggested that U.S. players should be better compensated for playing in the Olympics. Currently, the U.S. Olympic Committee rewards athletes $25,000 for winning a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver and $10,000 for a bronze. Colangelo suggested that anything more was unlikely to come.
"USA basketball has always had difficulties paying its own bills to support all of the programs," Colangelo said. "There is not a big pot of money that is available. Because it is
Of course, Wade doesn't
"It's pretty obvious we now have plenty of people who want to play," Colangelo said. "That's a tribute to everyone who has been involved."