Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 7/8/12
When Andre Iguodala, James Harden and Blake Griffin returned to their hotel rooms after practice Saturday morning, they received phone calls summoning them to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo's room. One by one, the players arrived, ready to hear if they had made one of the last 12 spots on the United States Olympic basketball team, which would be announced late in the afternoon. Harden arrived first. Then Iguodala. As they waited for Griffin, Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski began to talk about what qualities they might bring to the team, a hint perhaps but nothing definitive or direct. "About five minutes in the room, my hands started sweating and I'm nervous," Harden said. Finally, Harden and Iguodala were told they had made it. When Griffin arrived, he was congratulated, too. "At that point," Harden said. "It was a sigh of relief." If there was giddiness in the voices of each of the players, who were chosen over Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay and Anthony Davis for the final spots, it had many sources. If not for injuries to Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade, none of them likely would have been selected. For Griffin, this will be the first time he has represented the United States in international basketball. For Harden, the only one to never play in an All-Star Game, it marks his arrival among the game's elite. And for Iguodala, it was validation that you can make an impact on a team without having the ball. The rest of the roster, which Colangelo revealed Monday, included: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kevin Durant. The team may be smaller than anticipated because of the injuries, but its quickness and versatility left Colangelo calling it the best team the United States has fielded since he took over in 2005. "We're much more mature than in 2008," Colangelo said. "We think we're deeper. We think we're better." Griffin, Iguodala and Harden each were chosen for distinctive qualities. Iguodala becomes the best perimeter defender on the team, a quality that could be vital for a team that struggled to stop Spain's guards in the 2008 gold-medal game. Coming off the bench and being a facilitator will be an easy adjustment for Harden, who was the NBA's sixth man of the year last season. And Griffin's size and athleticism are more in demand on a team that has only true center, Chandler. While Harden, Griffin and Iguodala professed varying degrees of jitters Saturday, they all appeared to be intent on putting those close to them through some sort of emotional wringer. When the players returned to their rooms, Griffin placed a call to his parents and brother. The first person he spoke to was his mother. "I told her I got cut and that I was headed home," Griffin said. "But I only kept her going for like 15 seconds." Griffin, who seems to have perfected the deadpan delivery in his television ads, said he was somewhat convincing, even though his mother had been glued to the TV, listening as commentators preached that he was a near lock to make the team. Harden apparently was even less convincing. His mother was waiting for him back in his hotel room. "I tried to come in with the sad face like I didn't make it," Harden said. "She started crying because she knew. She knows. My poker face wasn't good enough." Iguodala put his agent through the same spiel, but he knew better than to do so with his mother. In fact, he didn't call her. He sent her a text. "I didn't want to hear her screaming into my phone," Iguodala said. Asked if he had spoken with his mother, Iguodala said not yet. "I told her I had a meeting so I didn't have to hear her screaming," he said. "[She texted that] she was just really excited and happy for me." Asked why all three players seemed intent on torturing the ones they loved, Iguodala shrugged. "Usually, you want to hear their expression - how's your reaction going to be if things don't go the way we expect them to," Iguodala said. "You know how it's going to be when things go your way. You just want to test their loyalty."
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