Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 12/29/11
Jerry Colangelo expects there will be comparisons next summer between the Dream Team and the 2012 Olympic basketball team. He says to bring them on. "I think it will be a fair comparison with the Dream Team," the USA Basketball chairman said in a phone interview Thursday with FOX Sports Florida about what can be expected from his team in London two decades after the Dream Team took gold in Barcelona in 1992. "Look at the progress our players have made since (winning Olympic gold in) 2008. We have some of the greatest players of all time. "You're hearing Kobe (Bryant) right up there with the greatest of all time. Dwayne Wade and LeBron (James) are right up there. You've got to add up the names, and you look at the young guys like (Kevin) Durant as an example and (Derrick) Rose as an example. There's so many. There's only been one Dream Team, and that's the way I think it should be. But there's no question our team will be much stronger than we had in 2008. They're more mature, more experienced and we've got more talent." With that in mind, it's the job of Colangelo, with plenty of input from coach Mike Krzyzewski, to decide how to choose from the abundance of talent which 12 players will represent Team USA in London. Colangelo revealed Thursday how the process will unfold. Colangelo said USA Basketball in the final two weeks of January will select between 18 and 20 players as finalists for Olympic spots. Players on that list will nearly all be veterans of the 2008 Olympics or from the 2010 World Championships team, which won gold in Turkey. But Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who was on neither squad, also is a good bet to be among the players announced late next month. "For the great immediate impact he has had in the NBA, he certainly deserves great consideration," Colangelo said of Griffin. The 18-to-20 player list is also likely to include the Miami Heat's Big Three of Wade, James and Chris Bosh, Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, all 2008 Olympic holdovers, and Durant, Rose, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler and Lamar Odom off the 2010 World Championships team. That would then leave two to four spots still to be decided. Colangelo doesn't anticipate there's enough time between now and late January for a player to dramatically change his status. But Colangelo said he and Krzyzewski will be evaluating the 18 to 20 finalists very closely the remainder of the season. The final 12-man roster must be submitted June 20 in addition to six alternates for the Olympics, which run from July 27-Aug. 12. A player can be replaced until shortly before the start of the Olympics if there is an injury or another good reason. Training camp will begin July 5 in Las Vegas. In addition to the 12 Olympians, Colangelo said it also could include some alternates and three or four young players that Colangelo said USA Basketball eventually will name to be groomed for future years. But plans for training camp remain fluid. One thing, though, is for sure. Team USA will have a lot less time to prepare for the Olympics than in years past. The NBA lockout pushed the NBA Finals back to an end date possibly as late as June 26. That means the final Olympic roster will have to be selected before the season ends and there will only be a little over a month between the end of the Finals and the start of the Olympics. In 2008, the NBA Finals ended June 17 and the Olympics began Aug. 8 in Beijing. In the past, Team USA could have competition in a training camp for the final roster spots. But that won't be possible in 2012. "If it was my preference, we wouldn't be faced with it," Colangelo said of the compressed schedule. "But we don't have a choice. ... The challenge with Coach K and the coaching staff is to plan accordingly. We've been very sensitive in the past with how we've used players and we've tried to play a lot of people. We'll be more sensitive to the circumstances (not to overwork players during the summer)." The situation, though, could have been a lot worse had the lockout not been settled and the season lost. Then there might have been insurance issues about players competing in the Olympics and questions about their conditioning. Then again, perhaps all would not have been lost. "Does that mean we would have had camp for two or three times during the year (before the summer) and that could have been a refuge for the players to get in some work?" Colangelo said about if the NBA season had been lost. "Might we have started practice after the college season? Honestly, I never gave (that proposal to the players before the lockout was settled late last month). "Carmelo and Chris Paul stopped by in New York and were with Coach K in the locker room (when the Duke legend became Division I's all-time winningest coach Nov. 15 at Madison Square Garden). And they said that the guys would be happy to get started after the season, when the college season ended (if the NBA season were to have ended up being cancelled)." For all concerned, that fortunately wasn't needed to become a consideration. Colangelo said he was ecstatic when the lockout finally ended. During the first two weeks in January, Colangelo said he will check with Olympic candidates to confirm they remain interested in playing. Colangelo said he has not heard from one candidate who doesn't want to play or is even wavering. Colangelo also will look into unique situations involving players. New York forward Amar'e Stoudemire, for instance, was knocked out of the 2010 World Championships on the eve of training camp due to an insurance issue. Stoudemire remains on a USA Basketball working list of 34 players for the senior national team. However, Colangelo expects that list soon will be done away with, replaced by the one with 18-to-20 candidates and the one with three-to-four young players. "Basically, it's going to be a blending of the (rosters from the 2008 Olympics and 2010 World Championships)," Colangelo said of the final roster eventually selected for London. "You can see how difficult it will be when you have to pick 12." Challenging? Yes. But Colangelo can't wait to see what emerges. It may just be the best Olympic team ever. "I'm very excited," Colangelo said. "We have a chance to be extremely good." Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson.
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