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Blake Griffin, James Harden, Andre Iguodala join Team USA

The Clippers forward, Oklahoma City guard and Philadelphia forward-guard are chosen over Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay and Anthony Davis for the 12-member U.S. Olympic men's basketball roster.

July 07, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Clippers star Blake Griffin was part of the 12-man U.S. Olympic basketball squad announced Saturday.
Clippers star Blake Griffin was part of the 12-man U.S. Olympic basketball… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

LAS VEGAS — Buried in a ballroom amid the opulence of a high-rise casino hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, the 12 members of the U.S. Olympic basketball team were unveiled Saturday.

They hope to hit the jackpot in London next month.

Nine players were already on the team before Saturday — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.

The final three players added to the roster were Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Oklahoma City guard James Harden and Philadelphia forward-guard Andre Iguodala.

Five of the above played in the 2008 Olympics, going undefeated and winning the gold medal: Bryant, Paul, Williams, James and Anthony.

"We think we're deeper. We think we're better," USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "Only time will tell."

While picking the final three spots, the glaring needs were for more brawn down low and a body or two to give Bryant some backup help at shooting guard.

Even though several weeks passed since Griffin sustained a sprained knee in the NBA playoffs, Team USA officials were concerned enough to bring him in for two private workouts before training camp began Friday.

They liked what they saw, obviously. He ended Saturday's practice with a series of dunks in front of some kids there to watch James.

"My knee has felt fine and I told them that, but with all the injuries that have gone on, they're a little on edge about it, which is perfectly fine," Griffin said. "It's been a dream obviously since I was young, watching the Dream Team and seeing all those documentaries, to represent our country is unbelievable."

All-Star big men Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge were left off the roster because of injuries, and Lakers center Andrew Bynum said he had no interest in playing in London.

Because of the lack of post players, Griffin and Love are expected to get some time at center in the Olympics.

Griffin, 23, averaged 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds last season for the Clippers, dazzling fans with his pleasing array of dunks, though his percentages don't make him a great international player on paper. He's not a strong outside shooter and made only 52.1% of his free-throw attempts.

On the other hand, Griffin's energy will be a sight to see and it's easy to envision him becoming a fan favorite in London.

Harden, 22, owns a well-rounded game, shooting with accuracy from outside, driving with strength and quickly becoming one of the better young players in the NBA. He won the league's sixth man of the year award.

Iguodala got the nod because he can play two positions and is a solid defender. He's not a huge scorer, averaging only 12.4 points for the 76ers last season, but his 1.73 steals a game were eighth in the NBA.

For the final three spots, Griffin, Harden and Iguodala beat out New Orleans guard Eric Gordon, Memphis forward Rudy Gay and top overall draft pick Anthony Davis, a forward selected by New Orleans out of the University of Kentucky.

Etc.

Tony Parker was medically cleared to play for France despite sustaining an eye injury in a nightclub brawl last month…Paul sustained a sprained right thumb the first day of training camp and will sit out a few days....Spain power forward Serge Ibaka didn't exactly flinch when asked about the U.S. team. "They are just like us," he told reporters. "They also have players with a lot of talent."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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