NBA Rumor: USA Basketball

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Grant Hill will become the men’s national team managing director following the Tokyo Olympics, USA Basketball said Saturday. He’ll replace the retiring Jerry Colangelo, in a move where one Basketball Hall of Famer takes over for another in the critical role of assembling teams that will compete for gold. “It’s just an incredible opportunity, also an incredible challenge,” Hill said Saturday.

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Team USA has asked to allow roster changes even during the Olympics as players may fly over late and join teams, Colangelo said. He is waiting to hear back from the governing bodies on the matter. “These are not normal times. Rosters by a certain date doesn’t make any sense,” Colangelo said. “What we’re seeking is flexibility to substitute players very late and to get the best players on the court. It doesn’t just apply to us but for all the countries.” On Wednesday, the IOC released its first set of Games parameters, which said athletes were not required to be vaccinated or to quarantine on arrival but that they would have to undergo testing before embarking and upon arrival in Japan.

That all changed in 2006. A couple of days before Bryant would score 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, Colangelo invited him to his office in Phoenix. The Lakers were in town to face the Suns, but Colangelo had something else on his mind: He wanted Bryant to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympics. “I knew in advance that he really wanted to be a part of U.S.A. Basketball,” said Colangelo, who had taken over as managing director of the men’s national team after its disastrous third-place finish at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens — a far cry from the standard of excellence set by Michael Jordan and the so-called Dream Team that won gold in 1992. “It was on his list of things that he wanted to accomplish, because he had never played for U.S.A. Basketball. No junior teams or anything like that. So it was important to him, and his commitment was huge.”

“I think Kobe challenged everybody,” said Jim Boeheim, one of the team’s assistants and the head coach of men’s basketball at Syracuse. “He was like, ‘I’m going to defend the toughest guy on every team, I’m going to push everyone, so just come along with me.’ And he did that from Day 1.” For Colangelo, it was a window into greatness. The foundation for all of Bryant’s feats — the 81-point game, the scoring titles, the series-clinching jump shots, the three championships he had already won with the Lakers — was his work ethic and desire. The spectacular was rooted in the mundane, in the monotony of hard labor.

At the Olympics, Bryant helped lead the way in the gold-medal final against Spain — and did it with flair. With just over three minutes remaining in a tight game, Bryant effectively sealed the win with a 4-point play. He raised an index finger to his lips to silence the Spanish fans in the crowd. A few minutes later, as the Americans celebrated on the court, Colangelo embraced the player he had once dreamed of drafting. The wait, in some ways, was worth it. “How often does someone have an objective, a goal, and have it perfectly executed?” Colangelo asked. “It was just so special.”

ESPN’s recently aired documentary series “The Last Dance,” chronicling Michael Jordan’s final championship season with the Chicago Bulls, rekindled interest in Jordan’s long-running feud with Isiah Thomas, including how the Pistons’ star was left off the 1992 Dream Team that won Olympic gold in Barcelona. Author Jack McCallum addressed the controversy in the most recent episode of his “The Dream Team Tapes” podcast series. McCallum said Jordan brought up the issue of Thomas himself in a 2011 interview. “When they called me and asked me to play — Rod Thorn called me. I said ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ He assured me. He said, ‘Chuck doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team,’” Jordan said on the recording that McCallum played during the podcast.

USA Basketball announced the preliminary roster for the 2020 Olympics which consists of 44 names. The list is as follows: Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat); LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs); Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards); Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns); Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers); Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics); Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat); Mike Conley (Utah Jazz); Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers); DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs); Andre Drummond (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets); Paul George (L.A. Clippers); Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors); James Harden (Houston Rockets); Montrezl Harrell (L.A. Clippers); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers); Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics); Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers); Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans); Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets); LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); (cont.).

Kawhi Leonard (L.A. Clippers); Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); JaVale McGee (Los Angeles Lakers); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers); Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets); Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

USA Basketball released a preliminary roster on Monday of 44 names to be considered for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, and while LeBron James and Steph Curry are back in the fold for the national team, the list had some glaring omissions. Notably, players like Trae Young, Zach LaVine, Carmelo Anthony, Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and John Collins were left off the list entirely while Kyle Kuzma, Dwight Howard, Marcus Smart and Derrick White were among the 44 players to receive camp invitations.

Those fans remember Barnes on their TVs in the Finals, too. “Just from what I’ve seen from our experience so far, trying to help guys understand what it means to play on an international stage and what we’re going to have to go through to win it,” Barnes said, when asked how his past championships can help here. “Anytime you have championship experience, whether it was just that journey of going through it, whether it was in ’15 or ’16, whatever it is, that just helps you in this process because you have eight games to lock in and do something special.”

So for Pop-watchers of a certain age, it’s hard to resist rewinding to the height of his reverence for the Jazz every time Popovich huddles with the budding Utah star Donovan Mitchell these days — a frequent occurrence on the U.S.A. Basketball practice floor. A picture of coach and player after a recent intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas, side by side and backs to the camera, slammed home the point: Mitchell has begun a six-week course of higher learning under Popovich.

Popovich still isn’t sure what he has roster-wise, but he can point to at least one luxury as he finally settles into his dream job as Mike Krzyzewski’s successor: Mitchell’s rise alongside the All-Star guard Kemba Walker will enable the United States to field an elite starting backcourt at the FIBA World Cup in China from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15. “Just try to throw yourself completely into it,” Snyder said he told Mitchell. “And try to communicate with Coach as much as you can. Be a sponge.”

Yet the mere mention of the word “scrimmage,” for a U.S.A.B. contingent in Las Vegas, inevitably evokes images of what happened to George. That’s the reality even when both player and program can gratefully say, on this unpleasant five-year anniversary, that they have rebounded as well as anyone could have hoped. “It was a travesty when it took place, and it just put us back on our heels,” Jerry Colangelo, U.S.A.B.’s managing director, said Thursday on the eve of Friday’s scrimmage. “But time has a way of healing. The fact that Paul came back all the way and it didn’t affect his career, it kind of minimized what transpired.”

U.S.A.B.’s struggles to attract stars for this summer’s World Cup bid have been a persistent N.B.A. story line over the past month. Those troubles, though, are more often attributed to player apathy toward a non-Olympic tournament, along with general concerns about workload and travel amid the league’s rising “load management” movement, rather than fretting about a George repeat. “No, sir,” Boston’s Kemba Walker said when asked if he viewed George’s story as a cautionary tale before accepting U.S.A.B.’s invitation to be the face of this World Cup squad.

All of that would have been hard to imagine on Aug. 1, 2014, seeing George, with his right leg placed in an air cast and teammates like Plumlee all around him so visibly shaken, taken out of the Thomas & Mack on a stretcher. “Hard to watch,” Walker said, recalling the broadcast he watched that night while traveling in Atlanta. “Sad.” Said Colangelo: “If Paul had gone down for the count, it would have been tragic for him and for us. Thank God it didn’t go down that way.”

USA National Team members expected at the World Cup training camp include Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat); Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Jaylen Brown(Boston Celtics); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); and Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls).

The 14-man USA Basketball Select Team includes Jarrett Allen (Brooklyn Nets); Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings); Mikal Bridges (Phoenix Suns); Jalen Brunson (Dallas Mavericks); John Collins (Atlanta Hawks); Pat Connaughton (Milwaukee Bucks); Craig; De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Jonathan Isaac (Orlando Magic); Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies); Mitchell Robinson (New York Knicks); Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs); and Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks).

Mitchell will also attend Team USA’s national team training camp Aug. 5-9 in Las Vegas. He hopes to earn a spot on the final 12-man roster for the FIBA World Cup in China, but his goal is to come back to Utah a much-improved player. “A lot of it, I’m just keeping it to myself with just being a better playmaker and a better player overall, being more efficient, and those are the obvious things, and then being in better shape,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully making the USA team will help with that.”

Thompson did not sound as definitive as he walked through an arena hallway following practice on Wednesday. Thompson mused, “I don’t even know what I’m getting for tonight, bro.” Thompson then added, “my focus is on winning this game tomorrow.” Still, it appears unlikely Thompson will play, according to a source familiar with his thinking. Thompson has appeared in five consecutive NBA Finals. He wants to focus on his pending free agency and a planned trip to China as part of his work with Anta from July 12 through 22.

If Walker plays, something he said he would like to do, he will come up against Japan in the group stage, with the Akatsuki Five, Turkey and the Czech Republic set to battle it out with the Americans for a place in the second round. “It will be an honor, of course, it will be the first time in my professional career that I will get the opportunity to compete for the U.S.A. team,” he said. “It will be an honor to play against Japan. I love playing against different competition, especially guys from another country, so I am looking forward to it.”

“He was remarkable, spectacular, off the charts, what he did to qualify USA for the world championships,” Popovich said of Van Gundy, who has worked as a television analyst since being fired by the Rockets. “He put together about five different teams, of mostly different players every time, and had a short amount of time to get ready. If they didn’t do well, the U.S. doesn’t go, and he deserves a lot of credit for doing that. I’m very grateful to him for what he did.”
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