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Who Will be on Team USA in 2012?

Now that the US has won the Gold Medal in Turkey, speculation has turned to who might be on the team that will represent the United States at the 2012 Olympics.  With players from Turkey, and completely different players from the Redeem team, and a few other big names thrown in there, USA Basketball will have some tough decisions as to who will wear the red, white and blue in London.

I can't help but point out that this is one of those stories that people will talk about for a few days in September 2010, and then won't be mentioned again for almost two years, by which time many things will have changed.  I get a little bit of a kick out of Jerry Colangelo speculating on having half of the roster from the 2008 team and half from the 2010 team.  Because, really, who knows? 

Chris Sheridan put his stake in the ground with a prediction he put together on the plane back from Turkey.  It's not a bad list, but it leans more heavily on the 2008 team than Colangelo has suggested he will.  Of the twelve names on Sheridan's list, eight played in Beijing (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard), three were in Turkey (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Andre Iguodala) and there's one newcomer (Brook Lopez).  In addition to the inclusion of Lopez, the one real risk for Sheridan is the exclusion of Derrick Rose.  In fact, if you replaced Lopez with Rose, you'd probably have a more likely scenario.

Let's look at this systematically, as I am wont to do.  Here are the 36 players who are currently listed as part of the 2010-2012 roster:

LaMarcus Aldridge
Carmelo Anthony
Chauncey Billups
Carlos Boozer
Chris Bosh
Kobe Bryant
Tyson Chandler
Stephen Curry
Kevin Durant
Tyreke Evans
Rudy Gay
Eric Gordon
Danny Granger
Jeff Green
Dwight Howard
Andre Iguodala
LeBron James
Al Jefferson
David Lee
Brook Lopez
Robin Lopez
Kevin Love
O.J. Mayo
JaVale McGee
Lamar Odom
Chris Paul
Kendrick Perkins
Tayshaun Prince
Rajon Rondo
Derrick Rose
Amare Stoudemire
Dwyane Wade
Gerald Wallace
Russell Westbrook
Deron Williams

And don't forget that other names will no doubt surface in the next two years.  Blake Griffin, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins - there will undoubtedly be some obvious additions to the pool of players to consider after two more NBA seasons.

From the 2008 Team, only Jason Kidd and Michael Redd are missing from the list, Kidd having retired from international competition and Redd suffering another serious knee injury.  So there are really only 10 redeemers to choose from.  Given that, Sheridan has given massive preference to the 2008 team in his selection, taking 8 out of 10, and leaving off only Tayshaun Prince and Carlos Boozer - 10th and 12th in minutes played in Beijing.  Maybe that's the way USA Basketball will go - give preference to the vets, who also happen to be the mega stars of the league. 

Or there's the approach suggested by Andrew Feinstein of SBNation - he'd give preference to the guys who showed up this summer.  There's certainly something to be said for it.  While it can get difficult to tell the legitimate excuses from the bogus ones, you still have to feel like the players who couldn't be bothered to play in 2010 because they were 'tired' should suffer some consequences.  If it's just a matter of showing up once every four years for the Olympics, isn't that the old system?  Isn't that what Colangelo's changes were meant to eliminate? 

It doesn't help the Redeemers cases that so many of them have behaved so badly this summer.  James, Wade, Bosh, Paul, Anthony - the sense of entitlement in these players during this off-season, the attitude of "I only want to play basketball in a situation that favors me and virtually guarantees my chances of winning" has been depressing.  And it just happens to be an attitude that would be exacerbated by them getting their spots back on the team.  Should USA Basketball turn around and reinforce their childish behavior?  "We've assembled the team just the way you requested, and would love for you to come to London with us, Mr. James?"  Yes, the US wants to win the Gold Medal, but what message does it send?

At any rate, I'm not going to try to predict the entire 12 man roster.  Too many things will change such that it's just pointless.  There will be injuries, there will be players whose NBA production falls off considerably, there will be players not currently on the list who require future consideration.  Given Krzyzewski's apparent disinterest in having a traditional post player, wouldn't Blake Griffin make a great Coach K center?

Even the idea of "half from 2008, half from 2010" makes little sense.  There are several players who weren't on either team who should absolutely be considered.  What about Brandon Roy?  Would you be inclined with someone like Roy, who has been in the pool of players for several years but has had bad timing with injuries, to finally give him his chance?  And of course there's age to consider.  Chauncey Billups will be 35 in 2012; Kobe Bryant will be turning 34.  Even Dwyane Wade will be 30.  Do you send Wade to his third Olympics?  Or do you give that opportunity to a younger player?

About the only thing I know for sure is that, barring an unforeseen circumstance (injury, dispute, etc.), Kevin Durant will be on the team.

It will make for some good drama in July 2012 if all these guys actaully show up at 'try outs'.  If you cut Derrick Rose in order to keep Paul and Williams, you've probably burnt that bridge.  Or perhaps the better example is Bryant.  If you keep Bryant, odds are whoever you have to cut (whether it's Andre Iguodala or Eric Gordon or whomever) is going to be pretty hacked off, and that player may not be back when the 2014 Worlds come around.  But at 34, Bryant is no doubt looking at his last major competition in London.  He'll be 34, he didn't play in these worlds so it's hard to imagine he'd play in 2014, and he'd be 38 by the time the Rio Olympics roll around in 2016.  Eric Gordon will be 27 that summer.  So you have to think about the future as well.

But as I said, it's all speculation for now.  We'll start getting answers in about 22 months, by which time most of the questions will have changed.