PHOENIX — USA Basketball named Carmelo Anthony its 2006 Male Athlete of the Year on Monday.
Presume that when it is time to pick the 2008 Olympic team, nobody at USA Basketball will hold Anthony's 15-game suspension against him.
Anthony, in fact, is nearly a lock to make the team.
Some other members of the 12-man squad that finished third in the world championships in Japan won't be in Beijing for the Olympics. Expect some tweaking of the team's 24-player core group before this summer's Tournament of the Americas, too. Both Jason Kidd and Carlos Boozer likely will be added.
Because it did not finish first or second in Japan in September, the U.S. has to qualify for the Beijing Games by finishing first or second in the Tournament of the Americas. With Argentina and Brazil in the tournament, the U.S. is not a presumptive winner.
The 12 members of the team that will compete in Las Vegas this summer will be picked as if USA Basketball's Olympic life depends on it. It doesn't — there would be one final pre-Olympic qualifying tournament if the U.S. failed to qualify — but Jerry Colangelo, managing director of the team, prefers not to consider such a contingency.
"To have to go through that (pre-Olympic qualifier) would be a killer." Colangelo said. "We're not even thinking about that. Our focus is to win the qualifier this summer. Nothing else."
Expect Anthony, who averaged 19.9 points in the bronze-medal performance in Japan, to be chosen to play in the Tournament of the Americas and the Olympics, as well.
As for Gilbert Arenas, who has made it clear he was furious about being left off the team that went to Japan, Colangelo is diplomatic.
I've never publicly taken issue with a player," Colangelo said last weekend, "and I'm not going to start now.
"One of the things I understand is that all of these players are very young. Whether they're 21 or 30, they're still young in my eyes and are apt to say some things that later on in life they're going to wish they hadn't said. But that's OK. I understand it's a very emotional game. People are high-strung who play it. They're all great players."
When Colangelo picked the original 24-player core group, it was with the understanding the players would be part of the core for three years.
Now it appears there will be changes. Colangelo all but promised that Kidd and Boozer, both former Olympians, will be part of the group next summer, and into the Olympic year.
"I'm thinking of inviting a couple of guys," Colangelo said. "Jason Kidd has been very outspoken about his interest. He's playing great basketball at (age) 33. He could offer some veteran leadership at that position, and coach (Mike Krzyzewski) is very interested in having him attend.
"Another player who is having a big year is Boozer, and word has gotten to me he is very interested in wanting to have an opportunity. He was on the 2004 Olympic team, and the USA Basketball people speak very highly of him."
Colangelo and Krzyzewski are firm in their belief 24 is the ideal number for the core group, and that means a couple of players would be dropped. Colangelo would not say which members were most likely to go, but feel free to speculate that Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick will be eased off.
Bruce Bowen will be in Las Vegas again. A USA Basketball insider said Bowen will have a solid chance of making the Tournament of Americas squad if he shoots better in the team's training camp and the exhibition games than he did last summer.
Hmm... Good for Team USA, bad for Jazz fans? I mean that would be cool and all BUT, I seriously doubt Jazz fans or the Front Office are too excited about this... The extra wear, not to mention the risk of injury are definate concerns.
It's nice recognition for Boozer, but as a Jazz fan I don't like it. I can see the HEADLINE now "Boozer pulls hamstring at team USA practice" shutters... There goes the season. Although...... he should be practicing in the summer anyway and it'll be good experience for him. But if he starts to play crumby afterward, he'll be able to easily blame the Olympics.