LAS VEGAS – LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and three other Olympic gold medalists were already back.
Add a defensive stopper, a potent scorer off the bench, and one of the NBA’s most explosive athletes, and the U.S. is certain it has a powerful Olympic basketball team.
Better even than the one that won gold four years ago.
We feel like we’re definitely a great team. We have all the pieces that we need, forward Carmelo Anthony said. We’ve got to put it together, but we feel like we’re the best team out there.
The Americans rounded out their roster Saturday, adding Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala and James Harden to the nine players who already seemed secure long before training camp began.
They earned the final three spots that opened after a rash of injuries knocked out at least four players who would have been on the team. They beat out former Indiana University star Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay and No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis of New Orleans, who couldn’t scrimmage this week because of a sprained ankle.
Also heading to London for the defending gold medalists are: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love.
Paul sprained his right thumb Friday during the first day of training camp and likely will sit out the next few scrimmages.
The Americans never had a close game four years ago until the championship game, when they pulled away in the final two minutes to beat Spain 118-107. Even with Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh unable to return from that team, the Americans think this one can be even stronger.
When I think about `08, we were really good then. But like me, LeBron and D-Will, all of us talk about, you’ve got to think about how much better all of us are now than we were in ’08, Paul said. All of us as players, we shoot the ball better. Guys are more athletic, guys are more confident. One through 12, no question we’re deeper than we were in ’08.
Griffin showed he was healthy again after being slowed by a knee injury during the playoffs, putting on an impressive dunking display following practice Saturday. Harden, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year with Oklahoma City, gives the Americans more scoring punch off the bench, and Iguodala is a defensive specialist who can guard multiple positions.
The Americans lost Howard, Derrick Rose, Wade and Bosh to injuries in recent months, forcing them to scrap plans to name their 12-man roster on June 18. They asked the US Olympic Committee for a roster extension and added Harden and Davis to their original pool of finalists chosen in January.
Harden seemed a long shot, joining Griffin as the only player who didn’t play on either of the last two U.S. teams. But the Americans felt they needed someone comfortable with coming off the bench more than they did Gay.
Great characters, workaholics, just humble guys, humble guys and blessed to be in this position, Harden said of himself, Durant and Westbrook.