(L to R) LeBron James of the Miami Heat, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat at 2012 NBA All-Star Game
Eighteen players remain in the roster pool for the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team, and 12 of them will suit up in Team USA uniforms when the squad opens Olympic play against France on July 29.
Of those 18, 14 players took part in the 2012 playoffs, and six are still have a shot at an NBA title — three for the Miami Heat and three for the Oklahoma City Thunder — when the conference championships began this week. The Miami Heat leads the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, 1-0, with Game 2 tonight in Miami. Oklahoma trails San Antonio, 2-0, in the West with Game 3 set for Thursday in Oklahoma City.
Leading up to the Eastern Conference Championships, Miami’s LeBron James has averaged 29.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 11 playoff games. In Game 5 of the Heat’s second-round series against the Indiana Pacers, James became just the second player in NBA history to amass 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in a playoff game. In the Heat’s opening conference championship series victory against Boston, James scored 32 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked three shots.
Meanwhile, Heat guard Dwyane Wade put on a scoring exhibition as well. His 41-point, 10-rebound effort in Game 6 against the Indiana Pacers was one of his all-time great playoff performances. He scored 22 points in Game 1 against the Celtics.
Miami forward Chris Bosh has been talked about a lot lately, but not for what he’s doing on the court. Bosh has been out with an abdominal injury and did not play in the opening game against Boston.
All three were members of the 2008 Olympic squad (The Redeem Team) that earned a gold medal in Beijing. James and Bosh joined Wade in Miami in 2010.
In the Western Conference, the Thunder have three guys in the player pool for Team USA — Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Durant, who won MVP honors in leading Team USA to the 2010 world title, has had an impressive postseason so far. First, he drained the winning jump shot in the final seconds of Game 1 against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. In Game 2 of that series, he made the go-ahead free throws in the final minute. Then in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round, Durant scored 22 points, including the go-ahead basket with 18 seconds left. And a few days later, he drilled the game-winning 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds left in the critical Game 4 vs. L.A.
Although the Thunder trails the San Antonio Spurs 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals, Durant has averaged 29 points in those two games.
For Westbrook, his No. 1 highlight came in Game 4 against the Lakers. That night, Westbrook made 15-of-26 shots for 37 points in a 103-100 victory. Westbrook scored 10 of his 37 during the fourth quarter as Oklahoma City rallied to stun Los Angeles.
Harden was the Thunder’s savior in Game 4 against the Mavericks, scoring 29 points (including 15 in the fourth quarter) as Oklahoma City came from 13 points down to sweep Dallas.
The final 12-man Team USA roster will be announced July 7, following the NBA Finals. The team will compete against Brazil in an exhibition game July 16 in Washington, D.C. Team USA’s Olympic schedule in London begins July 29 against France.
Several Team USA candidates have battled through injuries during the postseason, including both of the Los Angeles Clippers’ stars. Chris Paul dealt with a groin injury late in the playoffs, while Blake Griffin played through a knee injury in the Clippers’ second-round series. Andre Iguodala overcame a sore Achilles’ tendon to lead the Philadelphia 76ers into the second round, while Carmelo Anthony dealt with a groin injury during the New York Knicks’ first-round series.
For Miami, Wade reportedly has been playing through pain in his leg and knee. The most serious injury, however, was suffered by Wade’s teammate, Bosh. The Miami forward strained an abdominal muscle in Game 1 against Indiana, an injury that has kept him out of action since May 14.
Of the 17 NBA players named as finalists for the U.S. Olympic Team roster, only three of them played for teams that did not qualify for the NBA playoffs this spring. In the Eastern Conference, Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets came up short of the postseason. In the West, Eric Gordon (New Orleans Hornets) and Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) did not reach the playoffs.
Lamar Odom played this season for the Dallas Mavericks, which did reach the playoffs. However, Odom and the Mavericks agreed to part ways late in the regular season, so the veteran forward did not see action in any of Dallas’ postseason games.
Over the last several weeks, the various NBA awards were announced. As expected, Team USA candidates were littered throughout the balloting.
James was named the NBA MVP for the third time in four seasons after averaging 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists. Durant finished second and Paul finished third, while Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant (4th), Love (6th), Wade (10th) and Westbrook (12th) also received votes. Meanwhile, New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, with James (4th) and Iguodala (7th) also finishing in the top 10. In the Sixth Man of the Year balloting, Harden was the winner in a landslide, receiving 115 of 119 first-place votes.
Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay received a different kind of honor earlier in May, when he received the Kia Community Assist Award for April for his work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
May 30 is a big day for Anthony Davis, the former University of Kentucky star who led the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament championship in his only collegiate season. On Wednesday, Davis will be watching the draft lottery to find out which team will have the first pick in this summer’s NBA draft. Davis, who is considered a lock to be the top pick in the June 28 draft, averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 blocks, 1.4 steals and 1.2 assists for Kentucky this past season.
Select team roster announced
USA Basketball recently announced the 2012 USA men’s select team roster — a 13-man squad that will train against Team USA during its training camp in Las Vegas from July 6-12. Players named to the USA Basketball select squad were: Ryan Anderson (Orlando Magic); DeJuan Blair (San Antonio Spurs); DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings); DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors); Derrick Favors (Utah Jazz); Paul George (Indiana Pacers); Taj Gibson (Chicago Bulls); Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz); Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs); Jeremy Lin (New York Knicks); Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors); and John Wall (Washington Wizards).
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Drew Silverman is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.