US men's basketball starts road to Rio with minicamp

LAS VEGAS (AP) Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul were in the gym. LeBron James could join them Wednesday.

Dwight Howard came back in hopes of playing in another Olympics. Stephen Curry showed up to register his interest in playing in his first.

Though still nearly a year away, it's clear the U.S. has plenty of players who want to go to Rio de Janeiro.

The two-time defending gold medalists opened a brief, light minicamp Tuesday under coach Mike Krzyzewski with nearly three dozen of the NBA's best players who want to be considered for the 12 spots on the final roster.

Gone are the days when the Americans couldn't even find enough interested players in an Olympic year. Even though some of them still aren't even healthy enough to compete, 34 accepted an invitation to Las Vegas.

''Over the years there's been continual buy-in and a lot of success, so where it was not an `in' thing to play for USA Basketball back in 2005, today, as indicated by who's here, and the great interest in wanting to be part of USA Basketball, it just says that our players really did buy in to the whole program and that makes you feel pretty good,'' USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said.

Durant and Anthony, whose seasons were cut short by injuries, participated in drills that were little more than shooting. Anthony and James could make U.S. history if they play in a fourth Olympics in 2016. Along with Paul, they could become the first men's basketball three-time gold medalists.

''I've been part of USAB since I was 18 years old. It's like, you look back at all of it, I have a chance to do something special here, playing in my fourth Olympics, going for my third gold medal,'' Anthony said. ''Myself, LeBron, CP, can go for three, so there's some history here to be made.''

Howard played with them in 2008 but was forced to withdraw from the 2012 team because of back surgery. Even though he's battled a number of injuries since, the 29-year-old center seems ready to give up part of another summer next year.

''That's kind of tough to do but I just want to be able to be a part of something special that's bigger than myself, which is playing for the Olympic team,'' Howard said. ''It's something that once you get older you can tell your kids, your grandkids that you were part of the Olympic team that did such and such.''

Curry hasn't yet, winning two world titles and an NBA championship but not making the roster in 2012. So even though the NBA's MVP isn't playing this week, he came anyway for what was essentially a mandatory appearance, since Colangelo says the Americans likely won't hold another camp next summer before selecting their final roster.

''Whatever 12 guys they select next summer, I just hope to be one of them,'' Curry said.

Only James, Dallas' Chandler Parsons and Paul George, who broke his foot playing in a U.S. scrimmage last summer, weren't in the gym on the campus of UNLV on Tuesday, though Colangelo said James is expected Wednesday. Krzyzewski said NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala was excused while on his honeymoon.

The remaining players were a mix of those who haven't cracked a U.S. roster yet to those who have been done it multiple times.

That includes Paul, who just recently returned from the NBA's game in South Africa and said he, James and Anthony have talked about making history in Brazil.

''It's something that could be pretty special and all of us are here for the opportunity to be part of the team next summer,'' Paul said. ''I'm here just like the rest of the guys to show Coach K my commitment.''

His service to the U.S. team could help separate him from a point guard field that includes the likes of Curry, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and Mike Conley. Derrick Rose is apparently out of the picture after declining his invite.

Those who did come took their first step in being part of a powerhouse.

''I think they all understand it's odds,'' Colangelo said. ''The odds of making this team may be very, very hard for some, easier for others, but I believe they trust us that they're all going to have a shot.''

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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