This Week LO Looks To Make Team USA

Phillip Barnett —  July 20, 2010

MENS hoops

With the NBA Summer League done with, Las Vegas is now home to the USA National Basketball training camp where 27 guys will be competing to make the 12 man roster that will take on the world come August 28th. Among those 27 is the Lakers own Lamar Odom.

This summer, Team USA will have a new face – or a plethora of new faces – as no one from the Olympic Gold Medal team will play in the World Basketball Championships. This opens up the door for a lot of the NBA’s young talent like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Danny Granger and the Lopez twins to compete for a roster spot and wear their country’s colors. Looking at the 27 invited to camp it is safe to say that competition will be fierce. Below I’ll take a short look at the positional break-downs and will have more on the team’s progress at the end of camp and again when the roster is cut to 12.

Centers: Tyson Chandler, David Lee, Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez and Kevin Love (Amaré Stoudemire was invited to camp, but is expected not to play after the Knicks requested that he sit out the worlds).

At first glance, these aren’t the kind of names we’re used to seeing at the center position for USA Basketball. This list lacks bruisers, this list lacks that defensive presence that penetrating guards will immediately fear, and most importantly, this list lacks a truly dominant center. When I said that these aren’t the names we’re used to seeing, I don’t mean the names per se, but more what the names represent. From Dwight Howard to Shaq to David Robinson to Hakeem Olajuwon – those were all names that represented what have defined the center position; tough, brutal, physical dominance in the paint. A few weeks ago, Rob Mahoney wrote on the lack of a traditional USA center for Hardwood Paroxysm, and I couldn’t agree more with his argument: it’s hard to be excited for this group of big men. I do think that the Lopez twins will be able to hold their own in the Worlds, but Kevin Love is extremely undersized and doesn’t rebound at a great rate while David Lee doesn’t play a lick of defense. Tyson Chandler, who would be a good defensive presence, needs a quality point guard on the floor to be a factor on the offensive end. It’ll be interesting to see which direction Jerry Colangelo chooses to go with this group.

Power Forwards: Jeff Green, Lamar Odom, Gerald Wallace

Green, Odom and Wallace are an athletic bunch and have all proven to be solid complementary players. Lamar Odom has the largest skill set of the three, but as we all know, he is consistently inconsistent. Odom’s past Team USA experience and the fact that he’s a proven winner gave him the early edge going into camp. Gerald Wallace is the best defender of the group, and actually has a better shooting percentage than Odom and Green. In the international game, a lot of power forwards are going to stand around the arc and launch up three pointers. I think Wallace’s game translates well to the international game, he has the ability to guard on the wing and also bring his game out there if needed. Shooters will be needed against the international zones, and if Wallace shoots at a higher rate than the other two, I think he has a great shot at making the team. For Jeff Green, he could end up being the odd man out despite being part of the Team USA program for a few years now. Colangelo and Coach K really like him as he’s played well at camps in the past, but if the two other guys have games that translate better to the international game, he could still be waiting to take his turn in wearing the national colors. However, Green is a very good perimeter defender and is young and athletic. With none of the Olympians returning for the worlds, we might see Colangelo and Coach K look to bring a youthful team to Turkey.

Wings: Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Andre Iguodala, O.J. Mayo

Kevin Durant is pretty much a lock for the starting three spot, but I can see up to three more of these guys making the roster. I think Danny Granger’s game translates to the international game the most out of this bunch for his ability to play and guard three different positions with his size and athleticism. He can fill up a stat sheet and will do all of the dirty things that don’t show up in box scores. Rudy Gay is athletic and a good scorer, as is O.J. Mayo, but Mayo is a much better shooter than Gay is, which is going to be needed off of the ball. I like Andre Iguodala and Eric Gordon, but I feel like if two of these guys aren’t going to make the team, it’s these two. Iguodala isn’t a good enough shooter and Eric Gordon isn’t athletic enough to be much more than a shooter. Gordon has a great stroke in his shot, can shoot it off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations, but he isn’t bringing too much more than that to the table at this point in his young career.

Point Guards: Chauncey Billups, Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook

I think this will be the most competitive portion of the roster. I think Chauncey Billups veteran presence will earn him a spot on the team and I think Derrick Rose is just too good to not make the team, but Curry, Evans, Westbrook and Rondo can all do great things. Of this group, it’s hard to fathom any of these guys not making a basketball team, but I think after Billups and Rose, either Rajon Rondo or Russell Westbrook earn the final spot. We’re talking about two extremely fast guys who can jump in just about any passing lane and are deadly in transition. Both of them have shaky jump shots that can hurt, but then again, these are the two point guards of the two teams that gave the Lakers the biggest run for their money. Tyreke Evans, as much as I love watching him play, has a game that least translates to the international game. Then again, people were saying that his game wouldn’t translate to the NBA and he posted a 20-5-5 line in his rookie campaign. Stephon Curry’s shooting and playmaking ability will keep him competitive, I just think there are better point guards. I’m not knocking his game, because I love watching this kid’s game as well.

Until 2 p.m. Pacific Time, NBA.com will be showing an inside view of the NBA training camp (which I’m sure will be aired at a later time as well). For more information on Team USA, make sure you check out the official website. I’ll try and keep you guys as updated as possible on LO and the rest of Team USA.

Phillip Barnett

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43 responses to This Week LO Looks To Make Team USA

  1. didn’t LO have a lingering shoulder bug? i thought he was going to address this issue during the off season. it doesn’t look like it now and shoulder injuries are notorious for their long course of healing/rehab….

  2. I thought Love was supposed to be an above average rebounder?

    Also, hasn’t Rondo declared he’s not that interested?

  3. Great preview Phillip.

    I hope that Lamar playing for Team USA has a Melo-esque effect on him, when he comes back. After Melo played in the Olympics, there was a notable change in his game. He was much more mature and focused. But hoping for Lamar to be more focused is pretty much worthless at this point in his career.

    I disagree with your assertion that Kevin Love doesn’t rebound at a good rate. He averaged a double-double off the bench last season. According to basketball-reference.com he rebounded at a similar rate to Dwight Howard last season (21.5% TRB vs. 22.0% TRB)

    If there is one thing that Kevin Love does do well, it is rebound. And throw outlet passes.

    However, as a center he is undersized and offensively he isn’t a great post player.

  4. Chownoir-
    Yup, Kevin Love is a great rebounder. I don’t know where Phillip came up with “doesn’t rebound at a great rate “.

  5. man, i hope lamar odom doesn’t teach jeff green too many tricks. they’re kind of similar in that their both very skilled combo forwards. we can’t have that come back to bite us! (j/k)

    there are some amazing athletes on this team. they will destroy teams in transition, but only if they can commit to defense and play with killer instinct.

    in the half court, they should be able to space the floor and pick-and-roll teams to death. pretty sick team, and lots of different kinds of players. very intriguing.

  6. also disagree greatly with the assertion on love. One of the best rebounders in the game, and does the little things very very well. You are also wrong about eric gordon, who while undersized is actually VERY athletic. Curry’s game will translate incredibly well to the international game, (much like Love’s), but if he is interested, Rondo will be chosen for defensive purposes. (Rose is a sieve, and billups is getting old)

  7. I think Kevin Love is a great center for team USA since he can knock down the 3 ball with the best of those european centers and on defensive he won’t be so undersized compared to the NBA where you have faster and bigger guys.

  8. This roster looks pretty bad. I’m sure they will be the favorites to win gold but I’m not sure if this team could beat the Lakers, Heat, Celtics, or Magic even though they would have a way better bench.

  9. Re: Drew’s surgery

    He hasn’t had it yet. It was scheduled for July 18th, he moved it back to the 28th. No idea why, but regardless, its a few week healing period, shouldn’t be a problem going into the future…it’s the rest of “possible” injuries we need to worry about…knock on wood buddy.

  10. Good writeup, I am excited to watch and cheer for USA with good competition.

    Like others have mentioned Kevin Love is one of the best rebounders in the world. His weakness as a Center is lack of shotblocking and interior defense.

    Do we know yet if Pau is playing? Spain will likely be our toughest competition with or without him.

  11. Kevin- Pau reported he’s not playing in the WBC shortly after the finals were over. My guess is that the Lakers and Pau mutually agreed that it would be ill advised to play this year. After playing three years straight and missing season games due to a ham string injury he picked up in the off season, I’m guessing this will be the Year that Pau gives his body a little Hiatus from B.Ball.

    Lee’s out of the running due to a finger injury that sent him back to Oackland to have doctors look at it.

    If LO’s shoulder really is any type of an issue, I’d hope he’d follow suit with his Spanish counterpart.

  12. Saw that news on Bynum’s knee op as well. Shouldn’t be an issue going forward (touch wood).

    Any word from any source about Kobe’s offseason injury treatment/s? Any operations, rehabilitations or anything else?

  13. ESPN green-lights 22 more episodes of “The Decision”:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/espn-greenlights-the-decision-for-22-more-episodes,17743/

    Oh, Onion, thank you again.

  14. marc stein tweets jeremy lin is going home…nocal’s gs warriors.

    well, that’s that.

  15. I’m interested to see how Durant performs. There’s no doubt he’s the best player on the team…

  16. Man… that pic really pisses me off. Just looking at how far Lamar has let his body go truly displays his lack of work ethic and desire. Lamar was a athletic freak with god a given physique that would make Scottie Pippen blush. And he just threw it away. if Lamar simply had the work ethic of an Andrew Bynum he would have been a Hall of Famer. Oh well… if Kobe had the work ethic of Andrew Bynum he would have been a Lamar Odom… so I guess it evens out ;)

  17. Man, another potential free agent signing slipped through our fingers. Maybe it’s for the better, maybe it’s not. All I know is that we need some guys that can come in and fill these last two slots nicely. It would be shameful should we sign two guys that will make Ebanks and Caracter look like our 10th and 11th guys instead of our 12th and 13th. I’d hope our depth chart would actually look something like this:

    pg: Fisher, Blake, (Brown/ Critt), Sasha
    Sg: Kobe, (Brown/ Critt), Sasha
    Sf: Artest, (Rasual/ Tmac), Ebanks, Luke, Kobe/Sasha (if Luke’s injured)
    PF: Pau, Odom, Caracter
    C: Bynum, Pau, (Kurt T./ Mbenga)

    I know that would mean picking up three more players and getting all of the best options most likely wouldn’t happen. if we got Critt with the Mininmum (or sign brown to a very low contract), get our SF with our $1.7 mil. from the MLE, and sign a Minimum Center, that would be feasible. As a matter of fact, that is only one more minimum player than necissary just to fill out our roster.

    Like I said Earlier today, our bench will be even thinner this year if we don’t land at least 1 or 2 serviceable players to fill out our roster. Caracter and Ebanks are just not going to cut it as the guys to step in during a Bynum injury or play second string SF when Luke is injured. With teams like Miami and Chicago stacking up on better starters without giving up anything in return, the key to a third championship may very well be, whoever has the strongest bench.

    Hate to see another prospect slip through our fingers this off season, maybe that just means we’re due.

  18. Long time lurker. Just really hope that LO doesn’t get hurt. Every time he plays well, the Lakeshow dominates. His play will be pivotal this season, especially with how things are shaping up with the other teams (Thunder, slightly improved Magic, Heat).

    Btw, while looking for Kobe vids on YouTube, lead to Kobe vs Who Else vids, then lead to clicking on this.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBfCeGdRH3g&feature=related

    All I can say is, yah bad decision. But he doesn’t deserve this.

    But it is funny!

  19. I hope that Lamar follows the lead of Kobe and Pau–team Lakers should be more important to him than Team USA. After this season, Lamar needs another “redemption” year.

    Let’s hope he doesn’t start the season worn out and injured.

  20. Leaving money and celebrity out of it, and just dealing with his basketball life, it’s really hard for me to see how Lamar “just threw it all away” when the guy’s been a major, major contributor to back to back titles.

    I watched the clinching games of the ’09 & ’10 Finals again not long ago…man, Lamar played his ass off in those games.

  21. Renato Afonso July 21, 2010 at 3:09 am

    Actually Darius, I believe that your analysis to the international game has two major flaws:

    1 – You’re understating the difference in the 3-point line. Ours is closer (won’t be after 2012, I think) and as such, a good jump-shooter will be more effective in FIBA’s game. As such, I believe that Steph Curry is more suited than Rondo or Westbrook. The problem is that he is not a very good defender and the European PG’s are better at picking a defense apart than actually just slashing or shooting. For the US to have some kind of success, they must keep the opposing PG’s out of the lane.

    2 – Many teams actually use 2 centers instead of a traditional PF and a C. The difference is that those 2 centers are able to shoot, but using a stretch-4 will not help team USA. The US are better off just using the physical advantage they have and just pound away inside and shooting well from mid-range and 3-point land. They will be seeing a lot of 2-3 zone…

    So, since you have a 12 player roster, it should be filled out like this:

    PG

    Billups – He’s the veteran and it will be needed to slow the game down now and then

    Rose – I’m not fond of his game for international play, but he is better than Westbrook or Rondo who can’t shoot to save their own lives

    Curry – He should just shoot away and coul see some time at the wing, against smaller teams

    SG/SF

    Kevin Durant – No explanation needed

    Eric Gordon – Again, he is a good shooter and should definetly play

    Andre Iguodala – If he can control himself to take fewer shots he will be the athletic presence they need at the wing

    Danny Granger – Can he NOT shoot himself out of games? Seriously, I doubt the competition will go well for him, but he is better than Mayo or Gay.

    PF/C

    Odom – Because he is big enough to pound away in international competition

    Gerald Wallace – You covered his game well enough

    Jeff Green – Because he will be able to shoot over his opposition, but still should only see limited minutes

    Love – He will be a rebounding machine and his game translates quite well in international play

    Brook Lopez – Big enough and a good FT shooter for his size

    That being said, I do think that this team will be better than the ’06 version but will not have the drive the ’08 had because of Kidd and Kobe. They are certainly the favourites to win it all, but all it takes is a bad game and…

  22. Remember who the outstanding center was on the 08 Olympic team — Chris Bosh. The reason was the larger lane and focus on shooting and athleticism. The international game is not based around a bulky center occupying space in the paint – they have to move further away from the basket. I don’t think we can always translate skills we feel are dominant and apply them to the international game.

  23. As a Laker fan, I have long listened to the MJ did it without much of a team around him argument. I have always thought that was bull, but this link helps prove that point. http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=7010

    This is data referencing the recent MJ vs Lebron dust-up, but it certainly applies to any MJ comparison. He had help, both in the form of teammates and in coaching, and this data helps point the way to that fact.

  24. @13,
    ESPNs Ombudsman had some things to say about The Decision as well… he’s surprisingly harsh. Too bad it won’t change anything.

  25. Interesting article on lineups and chemistry:

    http://jamerchant.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/extracting-chemistry-from-the-adjusted-numbers/

    Strong evidence for Shaq messing up the Cavaliers because his presence made their lineups much less effective than they could have been. If The Cavs don’t bring in Shaq, there’s a good chance they defeat Boston and face the Lakers in the finals. And then maybe the Decision never happens.

  26. Renato Afonso July 21, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Craig W.,

    I remember Bosh from ’06 more than from ’08 (mainly due to where I was during those events) and he looked terrible. I mean, the guy was just lost the entire time.

    I’m not even bothering to look up for his stats (and I don’t care if they confirm or not what I say), the point is that he really ruined any fluidity the US had. Everyone was making fun of him while watching the game. That being said, he has some value in the NBA game but he’s just simply overrated, IMO.

    Since my country sucks at Basketball, I must say: Go (insert european country except France)! ;)

  27. I happened to be offered tickets to the Dback/Mets game last night. We sat 3rd row and had access to the underground club area.

    Comparing my love for the two games is difficult, as I really having nothing more than a rooting interest for the Braves and watch maybe 3-5 regular season baseball games a year. But seeing only 18k people show up to the game and the rather “dead” atmosphere was really disheartening in general. I’d imagine this is what some of the Nets/T’wolves games were like last year. I suppose I’m spoiled with the “culture” of Staples and US Airways (PHX) when I go to see the Lakers play. It really is a privilege to have a fan base that is passionate because, as I saw last night, the game really lacks a vital element when the loudest people cheer is for the T-shirt giveaway.

    Just some random thoughts on a non-newsworthy-NBA day. ; )

  28. 24. Great link. ESPN has completely blurred the line between journalistic endeavor/being “boys” with superstar athletes. I really really wished that ESPN put Bill Simmons as one of the interviewers during the “Decision,” to ask some tough questions to LBJ. I’m over it now.

    Re: Jeremy Lin, I don’t understand why people are really spilling ink on this guy. Sure, he has a compelling story. But take away the fact that he’s Asian-American and from Harvard, and simply evaluate him from a pure talent standpoint, would we make any further noise about him? Imagine a “Jeremy Jones” or “Jeremy Stojahowski” putting up comparable numbers and performance during summer league, would anyone even commit this much publicity to him?

    I really do hope he has a good future in the NBA. But don’t lose any sleep over this guy.

    Darius, any word on Shannon or the final two pieces of the Lakers roster? With baited breath I await news…

  29. Speaking of the Cavs and “the Decision”, here’s an awesome (blossom) letter written by the Chili’s president to Steve Carrell…Dan Gilbert style (via BDL) w/ extra Comic Sans.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/LeBron-James-decision-ignites-casual-dining-res?urn=nba,257109#remaining-content

  30. Another interesting thing about the article linked to by ‘Anonymous’.

    After Lebron left, the biggest blow to the Cavs is probably losing Ilgauskas. The team would appear to be better than all the commentators were saying, but they really need a center to start the reconstruction process properly.

    It would seem this team has some pieces that could work together if they could only get a coach who’s primary directive is to improve the team, not placate a star. Well, they now have that coach.

    While they are not likely to make the playoffs, I suspect Cleveland will do better next year than most of us predict. I will certainly be watching to see how things go. This is a situation that Byron Scott has done well in with past teams.

  31. hey guys, long time reader but i just watched this. quite amazing….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0EyAOxW9Fs&feature=player_embedded

  32. Lamar is best served playing for team USA because thats the only way he will come into camp not out of shape. This isn’t Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest… or even Andrew Bynum who train hard in the offseason… Lamar just sits back on the beach drinking Coronas.

  33. 25 Anon- Don’t get me wrong, I have the same bad taste in my mouth from Shaq that every Laker fan does… but I got to say, Shaq looked like the only person in a Cavs Jersey who didn’t want his butt handed to him by a couple of leprechauns. Yes, he’s extremely terrible at pick and role defense and hardly rotates to help the strong side but the guy still has heart and showed for the Cavs more than anyone else on the floor for them.

    (But I still never want to see him in a Laker Jersey again.)

  34. Why can’t we use a traditional big center for international ball? There are no “3-second-violations” in international ball, so someone like shaq can just camp in the paint and explode for 30 ppg. How come no one ever does it? (I understand why non-Americans do it, cuz they dont have as strong players, but American team should definitely take advantage of their physical players)

  35. @Aaron,

    Just curious, what makes you think Lamar is constantly out of shape during training camp or just overall lazy? I haven’t seen, read, or heard anything to suggest that he consistently comes into camp overweight or unprepared.

    In fact, here’s a quote from Lakers Director of Athletic Performance Chip Schaefer during the 2009 training camp about Lamar, “I have no problem with the type of training Lamar’s been doing. I’m just happy to learn that he’s been working hard”.

    http://www.nba.com/lakers/news/090915lakers_training_update.html

  36. 32, lol you’re worried about Lamar Odom being in shape? There’s 82 games in a season. I thought our team was old and we were supposed to be worried about burnout. Who cares that Odom played all 82 games last season, all 23 playoff games, started 38 times for the injured Gasol and Bynum, and played from March through June with a shoulder injury? Because it’s way more important for him to be in shape for November-January.

  37. Zephid,
    Would it be better to be in shape by summer training? Yes it would. But Lamar won’t ever do that. So it is better for his durability to come into camp in shape. As we have seen in the past players that have to play their way into shape are more likely to get hurt or be unproductive. We don’t have to worry about Lamar’s milage because he doesn’t have very much and he has never had to carry teams like Kobe, Gasol, and even Artest have had to do in the past. There is a reason the Lakers discouraged Pau to play this summer and encouraged Lamar to play this summer.

  38. @38

    What are you basing that Lamar is always out of shape during summer camp and that the Lakers are encouraging Lamar to play in the USA team? I haven’t heard of any Laker player, coaches, or management saying that he needs to be in shape or that he should/need go play for his country?

  39. Renato Afonso July 21, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    34.

    Actually the 3-second violation exists in International basketball and is called more often than in the NBA. What does NOT exist is the defensive 3-second violation. (Meaning that you can camp in the paint while on defense but not on offense)

  40. Bernie,

    Re: Odom coming into camp out of shape… don’t just take my word for it…

    http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/The_Baseline/entry/view/72237/lamar_odom_feels_out_of_shape_after_not_playing_basketball_for_a_month

    http://www.nba.com/lakers/news/090930practicereport.html

    Jackson qualified his comments by suggesting that Odom wasn’t necessarily known for coming into camp in the best shape of anyone on the team in past years

    http://lakers.ocregister.com/2008/10/02/jackson-he’s-not-in-shape-lamar’s-not-ready-to-play/

    Phil Jackson was matter-of-fact rather than angry as he said after the morning practice about Lamar Odom: “He’s not in shape. Lamar’s not ready to play.” Odom has been seen dragging with the stragglers in practice-ending wind sprints, and Jackson said Odom’s take-it-easy summer has led to a somewhat slow start for him in trying to play more of a quarterback role in the early triangle-offense practices of camp. He said Odom, despite getting fatigued, has done “OK.
    Odom said he chose to rest over the summer to ease the tendinitis that bothered him basically all last season.

    ………………………………
    And as far as the Lakers wanting him to stay in shape… its not just the Lakers… but lamar who wants that as well…

    http://www.lamarodom.com/?q=node/670

  41. >>>Report: Chris Paul Wants Out Of New Orleans; Knicks, Lakers, Magic On His List

    is there any humanly possible way for us to get cp3? luke+sasha+3 1st round picks?

  42. Renato Afonso July 22, 2010 at 2:57 am

    We don’t want him. Remember GP in the triangle… (And NO wouldn’t take anything less than Bynum+draft picks)