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Team USA: The Showcase that wasn't

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Tonight's USAB Showcase game features more players NOT in the Team USA pool than legitimate threats to make the 2016 roster.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

USA Basketball is a funny thing. While you have to give Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski credit for (mostly) winning Gold Medals since taking over (there was that one Greece game), there's a reason that it's expected that the USA will win -- the talent pool is bigger and deeper, by far, than anywhere else in the world.

So all of the "we're going to do things differently" stuff is really a lot of lip service. All they've done is to make it cool to play in the Olympics again, such that the best players want to do it. Why did the US lose three games in the 2004 Olympic Games? Because they didn't have the best players (especially at point guard where Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury were on the team and Jason Kidd was not). Of the 12 All-NBA players who were eligible to participate for Team USA in 2004, three were in Athens. Compare that to this cycle, where 12 out of 13 eligible All-NBA performers showed up in Las Vegas this week for the right to be on the team -- the lone hold out, ironically, being Tim Duncan, who was on that fateful 2004 team.

Colangelo and Krzyzewski said there was going to be a real tryout when they took over. But if that's the case, then why did Colangelo say this week that LeBron James has a guaranteed spot on the team if he wants it? They said they were going to include role players -- but really they've just taken superstars and had them play roles.

And they said there was going to be continuity, with an ongoing program, which I suppose there has been. But even while they've convinced 34 players to show up to the heat of the desert in August to be a part of the selection process, look at the rosters for the USAB "showcase" game tonight (I'm using the term loosely). Of 34 players in the player pool who showed up, 21 are opting out of participation in the showcase. Some of those are injured of course, like Kevin Love and Kevin Durant and Chandler Parsons. Most are not. So the famous continuity includes preferential treatment for the biggest names, who have to do the absolute minimum (like show up) in order to have a spot.

With 34 players in town, USA Basketball actually had to call in MORE just to be able to have a few reserves on hand for the game tonight.

For the Clippers, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan are NOT playing tonight, while Blake Griffin is playing. That one's actually a bit of a head-scratcher. Of course Paul, the three time Olympian and two time Gold medalist, is going to sit out. But why is Griffin playing? And why ISN'T Jordan playing? Griffin has nothing to prove, while Jordan has plenty to prove. Oh well.

If this summer's mini-camp was ostensibly about the process of picking the team to represent the US in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, and the showcase is the centerpiece of the mini-camp, then there's a definite disconnect here. Of the 18 players in the showcase, five of them aren't even officially in the pool of Team USA players. Meanwhile, perhaps four showcase participants have a legitimate shot to make the Olympic team (depending of course on what the big names decide to do): Griffin, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins.

If you're starved for basketball featuring NBA players, definitely tune in to NBA TV tonight. You'll get to see a few Blake Griffin dunks at least. If you are looking for some indication as to who might be on the 2016 Olympic team, well, it turns out that's not was this is about.