Durant, Anthony lead 12-player US Olympic basketball roster
NEW YORK >> The U.S. has selected its 12-player basketball roster, led by Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, with the goal of winning the Americans' third straight Olympic gold medal.
Durant and Anthony are the only players with Olympic experience after a number of stars, including LeBron James, decided to skip Rio.
Also chosen Monday for the team were: Golden State's Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes; Toronto's Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan; Cleveland's Kyrie Irving; Indiana's Paul George; Chicago's Jimmy Butler; Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins and the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan.
"We're very, very positive about the talent level and then the individual strengths of this team," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "We're long, we're athletic. I think we have some terrific defenders as well as terrific shooters, and the versatility is over the top."
Irving was the MVP of the 2014 Basketball World Cup on a U.S. team that included Thompson, Cousins and DeRozan and easily won gold.
The Americans should roll into Rio as the favorites. Yet they won't look as imposing as expected after the withdrawals of NBA MVP Stephen Curry and All-Stars such as Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and James Harden.
"As far as the talent goes and the level of play, I'm pretty sure that that's still going to be the same," Anthony said. "We don't have as many of the big-name guys that we've had before, but I think so far this is a great group of guys and they're hungry. They want to play."
Colangelo said having a national team pool, which he began in 2005, always has the Americans ready for player losses. There were 31 players in this year's and he had to go deep into it — and eventually even beyond it — to find 12 as the usual factors that can knock players out were joined by the Zika virus and other concerns in Brazil.
"Prior to this year, in the past we dealt with things like free agency, injuries, personal issues that might prevent someone from moving forward. This year it was exacerbated by circumstances beyond anyone's control, and that was the reality, the speculation and the circumstance in Rio," Colangelo said. "So somewhat more challenging, but at the end of the day, and this is important: This is not about who isn't here, this is about who is here."
That includes Anthony, who becomes the first U.S. men's basketball player to appear in four Olympics, and Durant, who set a U.S. record by averaging 19.5 points in London and also was the MVP when the U.S. won the 2010 world championship.
"Shoot, when you're playing with the best players in the world, it makes it easy," Durant said. "I'm just going out there and playing my game. They take all the pressure off of me."
Duke's Mike Krzyzewski will coach the Americans for the third and final time, tying Henry Iba's team record, and be assisted by Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau, and former Oklahoma City assistant Monty Williams.
They will lead a team with strong NBA credentials — nine were All-Stars this season — but a little short on international experience after the withdrawals.
The toughest competition for the U.S. is likely Spain and Lithuania.
The final and perhaps biggest blow to the roster was James, who would have joined Anthony with a fourth selection. He pulled out last week after leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA championship.
The heaviest losses came at the point guard spot, where Curry passed on making his Olympic debut after knee and ankle injuries in the playoffs. Former Olympians Paul and Westbrook pulled out and Washington's John Wall was injured. What was a position of strength became so depleted that Lowry was added last week even though he wasn't even a member of the pool.
But Colangelo focused on the strength of the team that was selected, adding he and Krzyzewski are excited about the challenge of working with new faces.
"Their credentials speak for themselves and now it's just a matter of coach having some time with the group, because there's so many new people, just getting everyone to blend in," Colangelo said.
The Americans will open training camp in Las Vegas on July 18 and play five exhibition games before traveling to Rio.
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