Lakers center Andrew Bynum tries to drive past Spurs center Tiago Splitter… (Harry How / Getty Images )
With USA Basketball suffering what he called a "rash of injuries," chairman Jerry Colangelo said he plans to meet with the team's coaching staff either April 30 or May 1 in Las Vegas to determine how they're going to fill their thinning roster for the 2012 London Olympics.
Orlando center Dwight Howard plans to have season-ending back surgery. Clippers guard Chauncey Billups tore an Achilles tendon earlier this season. Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge plans to have hip surgery. Although it's not injury-related, Lamar Odom also won't play after the Dallas Mavericks placed him on the inactive roster. All of these issues, Colangelo said, will officially keep those four players off the Olympic roster.
It remains to be seen how the roster will be finalized on June 1, including whether Lakers center Andrew Bynum could team up with Kobe Bryant. Such a pairing would be tantalizing considering it could set up a rematch against Laker teammate Pau Gasol with the Spanish national team, which lost to the U.S. in the 2008 gold-medal game. But Colangelo remained noncommittal on evaluating Bynum's chances.
"I haven't heard specifically from he or his people," Colangelo said Friday at Annenberg Community Beach in Santa Monica at a USA Basketball event hosted by Jeep. "We haven't reached out to anyone. Nor will we until we have this meeting. I can tell you this morning I've had calls from players and agents that they want to participate and would be more than happy to join in at this point. We'll look at all those possibilities and we'll find out if there's interest before we extend any invitation."
Because of these absences, Colangelo said he's putting heavy emphasis on filling the team's front line and looking for players who are "versatile enough to play a couple of positions." But the possibilities remain unclear. Colangelo said USA Basketball officials might choose from their 16-man roster, which features frontcourt players in Tyson Chandler, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin. Colangelo also said he's open to adding extra players.
Colangelo sounded willing to give New Orleans guard Eric Gordon a chance, saying it's "still possible" he'd merit consideration despite playing most of this season with an injured knee. But there is no chance Odom could reclaim his spot on the team after posting career-lows in points (6.6), field-goal percentage (35.2%) and rebounds (4.2) only a season after winning the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award with the Lakers.
"Lamar Odom had a year that is a forgettable year for him," Colangelo said. "I don't think he possibly, physically or emotionally, could be ready to participate and contribute."
Bynum, who's posted career highs in points (18.9), shooting percentage (56.2%), rebounds (12.1) and playing time (35.4 minutes) told The Times' Mike Bresnahan in January that he remained hesitant in showing interest in the Olympics out of concern for resting his surgically repaired right knee. His injury issues in past seasons, Colangelo said, prompted Bynum to decline invitations to practice with USA Basketball select teams.
"Before we extend an invitation to anyone, we'll know [the interest level] in advance," Colangelo said. "You're either in or you're not."
The rest of the USA Basketball's 16-player roster includes Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. With the London Olympics beginning July 29 and ending Aug. 11, Colangelo's concerns go beyond whether the U.S. team will defend its gold medal.