Posts Tagged ‘Team USA’

Morning shootaround — Aug. 8


NEWS OF THE MORNING


VIDEO: Kevin Durant has withdrawn from Team USA participation

How does Team USA cope with Durant’s move | Fatigue a legit storyline for Durant | Kirilenko clears air on Kidd comments

No. 1: Where does Team USA go from here? — Team USA’s roster seems to be losing household names quickly, what with Kevin Durant officially saying yesterday that he won’t participate in the 2014 FIBA World Cup to do ‘physical and mental’ exhaustion. Combined with the injury to Paul George, the U.S. national team has some key holes to fill … and fast. How will they tackle this issue? Our John Schuhmann, who has been on the pulse of Team USA since camp opened in Las Vegas, shares his thoughts:

Some random thoughts…

  • The U.S. still has a lot of offensive firepower with Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis. But there’s just no replacing Durant’s combination of size and shot-making.
  • The U.S. still has a relatively clear road to the gold medal game. Not only will Spain be on the opposite side of the bracket (after group play is completed), but so will Argentina, Brazil and France. Lithuania could be the biggest challenge out of the USA’s side.
  • But only the winner of the World Cup (along with Brazil) qualifies for the 2016 Olympics. If the U.S. doesn’t win, it would have to qualify via the FIBA Americas tournament, to which it hasn’t sent a team since 2007.
  • So this is also bad news for the Canadian National Team, general manager Steve Nash, coach Jay Triano, and their group of young NBA players, which could include Andrew Wiggins next summer. Only two teams from the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament will qualify for the Olympics, and if the U.S. is competing for one of those two spots, Canada’s chances are cut in half.
  • As has been noted many times in this space, the U.S. typically plays two NBA small forwards together at the three and four. Both Durant and George, like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in the past, would have been able to play the four. But now Chandler Parsons is the only three left on the roster with much size.
  • That could mean that we’ll see more of Kenneth Faried than originally planned. Faried has broken the mold of what the U.S. looks for in a power forward, providing a combination of energy and athleticism that’s been impossible to ignore. But he appeared to be an energy guy who plays a few minutes at a time. Now, he may be a bigger part of the rotation (and possibly a starter). If he’s playing next to Davis, who has range out toward the FIBA 3-point line, the U.S. can still space the floor pretty well.
  • If the U.S. is going to take only one of DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee for the back-up center spot (with Davis and Faried as the other bigs), there would be only one more player cut from the current 15-man roster. That final spot would likely come down to Damian Lillard and DeMar DeRozan, who obviously bring two different skill sets. Durant’s withdrawal may have guaranteed Gordon Hayward a spot on the roster.

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Morning shootaround — Aug. 6


NEWS OF THE MORNING


VIDEO: Reggie Miller talks about Paul George’s injury and its effect on Team USA

Team USA brass downplay effect of George’s injury | Report: Pacers interested in Marion | Report: James has first meeting with Blatt

No. 1: Krzyzewski, Colangelo downplay effects of George’s injury — Team USA pared down its roster to 16 yesterday as John Wall, Bradley Beal and Paul Millsap were cut, but the squad also will obviously  not feature Paul George after he suffered a devastating broken leg injury on Saturday. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo talked with the media about how they will go about assembling Team USA’s roster. Our John Schuhmann has more on what those two men had to say:

“We’ve been in communication with our players,” Colangelo said. “They are all on board. They recognize that injuries and sports go together, unfortunately. And we all have experiences that we could talk about, where players have been lost in practice, players have been lost in games and pick-up games for seasons. I personally have experienced that with my 45 years in the NBA.”

It wasn’t long after George broke his leg that people (rightfully) started to wonder how the injury — seen on national television — would affect the willingness of NBA players to play in international competitions in the summer. And we won’t really know if it will until 2016, when Colangelo calls on players for the Olympics in Brazil.

But he believes the pull of representing your country will overcome any risks players might see in playing competitively in the offseason.

“To be able to represent your country is what it’s all about,” Colangelo said. “It is about being patriotic. It is about selfless service. And our players get that. All you need to do is ask any of them who have been involved with us in our last three competitions and they would, to a man, say they feel they’re better people, better players, and felt a real warming within their soul to represent their country.”

NBA owners, of course, deserve a say in the matter. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has long been a critic of NBA guys playing for their country without compensation, continues to advocate for an international tournament run by the NBA.

“I think people need to read between the lines,” Colangelo said of Cuban’s comments. “He’s against international competition when he believes the beneficiary, being the IOC, is getting the money. So he’s basically saying it’s OK for our players to play internationally if the money goes to the NBA and to the team owners. That’s the difference.”

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With time, work and patience, George can return to his All-Star self

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Mike Krzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo talk about Paul George’s injury

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The  injury suffered by Paul George Friday night during the USA Basketball Showcase in Las Vegas was shocking, but the Indiana Pacers’ All-Star small forward can make a full recovery and even regain the tremendous explosiveness and athleticism he displayed on the very play on which his lower leg snapped.

To get to that point is going to take time, perseverance and a lot of sweat.

Paul George

Paul George faces a long road to recovery from his injury.

He suffered what’s called an open tibia-fibula fracture of his right leg, meaning he fractured both the tibia and fibula. George was immediately taken to the hospital and underwent surgery performed by USA Basketball team physician Riley Williams (who is also the team physician for the Brooklyn Nets). The procedure typically involves inserting a titanium rod over the fracture and using screws to hold it in place.

The good for news George, an All-Star in each of the last two seasons, is that while the injury is rarely seen in basketball, it is a common sight among orthopedic surgeons. The procedure to repair it is also very common, according to Dr. T.O. Souryal, head physician for the Dallas Mavericks and a renowned orthopedic surgeon in sports medicine who is also president of the NBA Team Physicians Association.

“This is orthopedic surgery 101. They know what to do with an open tibia fracture,” Souryal said. “We see this injury in car accidents, we see this injury in motorcycle accidents, we see these injuries with people falling off a ladder, we see these injuries on the soccer field, so this is a relatively common orthopedic trauma injury. There’s a long track record of dealing with this injury and dealing with the issues that are unique to this injury.

“What makes this unique is that it was videotaped from five different angles.”

George, 24, faces an exhaustive rehabilitation process that begins immediately with simple, muscle-firing exercises that can be done from his hospital bed. As George moves away from early recovery challenges — such as infection — in the initial weeks following surgery, his rehab will escalate incrementally in intensity, complexity and duration as the bone heals over a period that typically spans 4-6 months. Souryal cautions that healing time for the tibia can be slow and involve complications, but he noted that for a young, well-conditioned athlete such as George, odds are high for a clean healing process.

Once the bone heals, the real work for George begins with what Souryal terms the late challenges. Regaining motion in his ankle and knee are crucial as George then begins the gradual strengthening process. A regimen that includes — at various phases — a stationary bike, walking on the underwater treadmill or zero-gravity treadmill and ultimately weight machines and leg presses is typical.

“During the recovery and healing, both of those joints can be involved in the injury, so he has to work on getting his mobility back, getting his knee moving normally and getting his ankle moving normally, and ultimately getting his strength back,” Souryal said. “During the stages, sometimes you’re on crutches, sometimes you’re in a machine or in a cast and you suffer a tremendous amount of atrophy. Part of the recovery is going to involve strengthening, and that by itself takes a long time to get your strength back.”

Will Carroll, sports injuries writer for Bleacher Report, recently spoke with Dr. Bert Mandelbaum about George’s injury. Mandelbaum is one of the top orthopedic physicians in sports medicine and said George can expect to be on crutches for six weeks.

“Then the athlete gradually progresses to rehabilitation, physical therapy and cross training,” Mandelbaum told Carroll. “Once the fracture healing is strong, the athlete will return for progressions to practice and games. Once completed, most athletes can perform at pre-injury levels.”

Souryal, who has not examined George, but has treated numerous similar injuries, agrees. Souryal said George’s final hurdle will be getting his explosiveness back, a goal that will challenge George both physically and mentally. But it is one that can be reached.

“That’s always the last thing to come back after a major injury like this,” Souryal said, “is your ability to explode and dunk the ball and have the confidence to land back on that leg.”

Once George completes the recovery process, one which Souryal cautions against setting a timetable because of the numerous variables in play at this early stage, Souryal said George can feel confident that he won’t re-injure his leg. Souryal said the bone heals stronger than it was prior to the injury and the titanium rod inserted during surgery reinforces it.

Unlike an ACL injury, Achilles injury or other soft-tissue injury in which consideration of re-injury is always present, Souryal said the risk of re-injury with a tibia fracture “is almost zero.”

George’s recovery process will be grueling and require patience. But through it he can remain focused on the likelihood of resuming his burgeoning career where it left off. How long that takes will depend on how quickly the bone heals followed by the rigorous, time-consuming strengthening process.

“Can he be back to his old self? Yes,” Souryal said. “How long will that take? I don’t know.”

Morning Shootaround — July 31


VIDEO: Take a slow-motion look at Day 2 of Team USA’s practice

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Love talks narrowed to Cavs | George: Pacers should have won title | Rose draws rave reviews in Vegas | Scott could have coached Lakers earlier

No. 1: Report: Wolves working solely with Cavs on Love deal – The Denver Nuggets. The Boston Celtics. The Golden State Warriors. The Cleveland Cavaliers. At various points this offseason, those four teams — and perhaps others — have been involved in talks to acquire Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love. That list has apparently been narrowed to just Cleveland as a seemingly inevitable pairing of Love with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving grows closer. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst, who first reported this bit of news, have more:

The Minnesota Timberwolves were engaged in serious Kevin Love trade talks with no teams other than the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, adding to the growing belief around the NBA that Love teaming up with LeBron James is inevitable, according to sources briefed on the situation.

After ESPN.com reported last week that the Cavaliers remain the front-runners to acquire Love in a trade co-headlined by No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins, sources this week have described the Cavs as the only team in contention for Love. Sources say the Chicago Bulls have become increasingly pessimistic about their chances of trumping Cleveland’s offer, while the Golden State Warriors remained unwilling to bend on their longstanding refusal to surrender Klay Thompson in a deal for Love.

Wiggins is not eligible to be dealt until Aug. 23 after signing his rookie contract last week, but numerous league insiders — some of whom are gathered in Las Vegas for this week’s Team USA training camp — have begun to describe a Love-to-Cleveland trade as a “when” transaction as opposed to an “if.”

The expectation remains that the Wolves will emerge from this saga with no less than Wiggins, 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick from the Cavs in exchange for Love before August is out.

ESPN.com reported last week that the Bulls had re-emerged as a serious suitor for Love, despite the fact they had a few more trade assets to offer Minnesota before last month’s NBA draft. But sources said this week that Chicago essentially has conceded to the Cavs, knowing it can’t furnish a player with both Wiggins’ superstar potential and his favorable rookie-scale contract.

The Wolves also signed veteran guard Mo Williams this week, making fellow vet J.J. Barea — who sources say Minnesota is determined to offload as part of a Love deal — more available. It’s believed the Wolves hope to convince Cleveland to take Barea as part of a Love trade or find a third team to absorb Barea’s expiring contract.

The Warriors conceivably could still give Cleveland something to worry about if they suddenly put Thompson on the table while the Cavs are waiting for Wiggins to become trade eligible, but sources say Taylor prefers a package headlined by Wiggins to a Thompson-led haul for Love.

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Blogtable: Tough Team USA call

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Free agent’s fine future | New coach who fits | Tough Team USA call



VIDEO: Get an up-close look at Kyrie Irving’s Team USA experience thus far

> You’re Mike Krzyzewski. You have some decisions to make. What’s your toughest call? Who do you go with?

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I can’t take my eyes off the five point guards: Steph Curry, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and John Wall? How many can you put on the 15-man roster Coach K wants by the time camp ends? Four? Probably not. I’m guessing three. Unless Team USA assistant and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau gives Coach K the wink to keep Rose off the team as injury prevention, I believe Rose is a lock. My second lock is Curry because he can swing over to the 2 and shoot the lights out of any zone defense. Now I have a real problem. Irving is a two-time All-Star and a $90-million man. Wall made his All-Star debut in February and is an $80-million man. Lillard is already an All-Star after two seasons and has ice in his veins. I think Irving is going to get the spot, but my choice is Wall. I really like how he’s maturing, both in his physical and mental game. He pushes the tempo, has consistently posted higher assist numbers than Irving and Lillard and shoots the 3 well enough, especially on this squad. So there it is, Wall gets my third and final point-guard spot.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: That point guard group is as elite as it gets. Outside of Steph Curry, whose ability to knock down shots from anywhere on the floor is crucial in international competition, I don’t know that there any locks for the roster in this group. I can see any combination of three making sense for the final roster. And that means two All-Stars get left behind. Picking two guys from a group that includes Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and John Wall seems like an impossible situation, one that Coach K’s peers who will be in Spain would love to be laboring through right now. But this is about the best fits for this particular team and until we see them work through training camp, I don’t think we can jump to any conclusions about who fits best. If I’m picking, Irving and Lillard would seem to make the most sense based on skill-sets and versatility.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Who are the bigs on the roster behind Anthony Davis? There’s a reason why, with the addition of Mason Plumlee on Tuesday, the big position is the most crowded. There are no obvious choices (or any Senior Team experience) beyond Davis and all those guys have their flaws. Assuming Davis plays 30 minutes per game, you need guys who can bring energy in short bursts. So I would take Kenneth Faried and, yes, Plumlee. Those guys can make an impact a few minutes at a time and are more trustworthy than Andre Drummond. And I would seriously consider bringing a fourth big – Paul Millsap, in this case – for the first time since 2006. Millsap gives you the opportunity to put an extra shooter on the floor in certain situations.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: To me the loss of Kevin Love is looming large. And with Blake Griffin out as well, I am very interested to see how the backup center spot shakes out. Anthony Davis seems to have established himself as the starter, but behind him do you go with DeMarcus Cousins or Andre Drummond? Or do you look for mobility and speed and try Kenneth Faried? If it’s me, I take Paul Millsap and pray Davis stays out of foul trouble, but if I’m in a pinch hope Kevin Durant or even Millsap can steal you a couple of minutes at the five.

Morning shootaround — July 29


VIDEO: Take a slow-mo look at Team USA’s practice in Las Vegas

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Griffin has back fracture | Rose pleased with Bulls’ offseason | Report: Spurs deny Ginobili’s World Cup bid | Waiters wants to be Cavs’ starting shooting guard

No. 1: Report: Griffin has back fracture — When Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin withdrew from Team USA last week, he said he was doing so to focus on getting ready for next season in L.A. While that is likely true, another reason he left the team, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne, is because of a small fracture he suffered to his back:

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin withdrew last week from Team USA training camp for the FIBA World Cup because he was advised by doctors to give a small fracture in his back more time to heal before the start of the next NBA season, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com.

Griffin is expected to make a full recovery from the injury, which sources say was suffered during the playoffs. However, doctors advised him to sit out international competition this summer for precautionary reasons.

Griffin has continued to work out this summer in Los Angeles with teammate DeAndre Jordan and former Laker and Clipper Sasha Vujacic.

Both Griffin and Minnesota forward Kevin Love withdrew from the training camp last week, which left Team USA thin in the front court and prompted the late addition of Atlanta’s Paul Millsap to the camp.

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Morning Shootaround — July 8


VIDEO: Kevin Ding of BleacherReport.com talks about where Carmelo Anthony may go next

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Riley not sweating a Big Three departure | Houston may be Bosh’s best fit | Report: Celtics still angling for Love | Reports: Westbrook withdraws from Team USA

No. 1: Riley confident Big Three are returning– Yesterday, the Heat agreed to deals with free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger in moves that — as our David Aldridge reported — that are seen by some as ones to help assure LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh they’ll have more help in Miami. USA Today‘s Jeff Zillgitt and Sam Amick echo that sentiment and report that Heat president Pat Riley isn’t sweating the departure of any of his Big Three:

Seven days into free agency, Miami Heat President Pat Riley made his first roster moves to show LeBron James why he should stick around.

This much is clear: Riley is confident James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will return, according to people who have had phone conversations with Riley in the last week. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports under the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the conversations.

Of course, Riley’s confidence doesn’t guarantee anything. But right now, he isn’t scrambling.

Reaching deals with forwards Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger is step one in making the necessary roster additions to improve the Heat. At the very least, Riley has tangible evidence to show James when they meet in the next couple of days to discuss the future. He is letting him know the Heat will spend what is required, including top dollar on Bosh, to win another title after two in four years together.

In the big picture, the Granger and McRoberts agreements give Riley room to present James with a couple of different spending options, including the ability to give Bosh a big contract, too.

The Heat got longer, more athletic and younger with the two deals, which can’t be signed until the free agent moratorium ends Thursday. July 10. McRoberts and Granger are fine complementary pieces.

McRoberts is 27 and coming off one of his best seasons at 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game for the Charlotte Bobcats. He gives the Heat another big man who can pass, rebound and play inside or outside. Last season, Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said McRoberts was one of the three major reasons for the team’s turnaround.

Splitting time between the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers last season, Granger had his moments but wasn’t close to All-Star form. But the Heat don’t need him to be an All-Star. They need him to be an upgrade off the bench.


VIDEO: NBA TV’s crew discusses the Heat reaching deals with Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts

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Spurs, Heat Have Questions (And More Offseason Queries)

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.cm

VIDEO: The GameTime crew discusses what’s next for the Spurs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The San Antonio Spurs won their fifth championship since 1999, but it took 15 years for the most stable franchise in pro sports to play in back-to-back NBA Finals. What’s left to accomplish?

That’s right, back-to-back titles.

That’s only one reason to expect Spurs captain Tim Duncan to continue his brilliant career for at least a 18th season. The talk has always been about Kobe Bryant chasing Michael Jordan‘s six rings, but it’s now Duncan in his twilight years who has the greatest chance to get it done.

So why in the world would Duncan, his body holding up as strongly as his production, hang ‘em up now?

Versatile forward Boris Diaw, high-octane point guard Patty Mills and reliable-when-needed forward Matt Bonner are the only players not under contract for next season. While Diaw and Mills have raised their stock and will be attractive free agents, it’s certainly not out of the question that they’ll be back in the silver-and-black.

Even if the Spurs lose one, or both, their Big Three — plus Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and a couple new reinforcements for the bench — will have the Spurs as a favorite to make it three consecutive Finals appearances.

Duncan, 38, just completed a phenomenal postseason, averaging 16.3 ppg on 52.3 percent shooting and 9.1 rebounds while logging 32.7 mpg. That followed up a regular season in which he played in 74 games while coach Gregg Popovich again masterfully managed his playing time.

So, again, what would be the motivation to retire now? A man of similar body type, the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, won a championship with the Lakers at age 40 and played in The Finals at age 41.

While Duncan, for whatever reason, hasn’t come out and stated that he’ll be back despite still having one year and $10.3 million left on his contract, he has smiled through interviews while making statements lightly-sprinkled with hints that he has no plan of joining San Antonio resident David Robinson on the golf course quite yet.

Fortunately, the anticipation for a definitive answer won’t take long. Duncan has a June 24 deadline, that’s one week from today, to notify the Spurs of his plans.

The Miami Heat’s future won’t be resolved quite so soon. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all opt out of their contracts and become free agents. What they decide to do will be the biggest story of the summer and whatever they decide will produce ripple effects across the league.

And that brings us to the biggest story lines of the summer:

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Morning Shootaround — May 21



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 20

NEWS OF THE MORNING

George ‘blacked out’ after collision | Rose to join Team USA for camp | Ainge: Celts may trade down, or out, of first round | Hornets willing to move picks? 

No. 1: George ‘blacked out’ after collision with Wade — Pacers All-Star swingman Paul George struggled all throughout Game 2 of the East finals last night, but that didn’t stop him from hustling for a loose ball late in Indiana’s eventual loss. As he dove on the floor for the ball, he collided with Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade and got kneed in the head. As George revealed after the game, he had blurry vision after that hit and said he blacked out, too, writes our own Steve Aschburner:

Then there was Paul George. Indiana’s All-Star wing player was sprawled in his chair, still icing his knees and maybe in need of another pack on the back of his head. George, scrambling for a loose ball, had gotten kneed in the head by Miami’s Dwyane Wade, a scary moment for both teams with 6:50 left and the Pacers up 73-69.

George wound up worse for the collision: He blacked out momentarily, lying still as his coaches and the team’s medical staff came onto the court in a timeout. Then – in something he revealed only after the game – he suffered from blurred vision right through the final horn.

“I mean, I blacked out as soon as it happened,” George said afterward. “And then, the whole four or five minutes, however much time was remaining, I was just blurry. My eyes was blurry. I just tried to play through it.”

According to a Pacers spokesperson, the medical staff asked George – on the court and over on the bench – all the questions that pertained to the NBA’s official concussion protocol. George said he had no symptoms, other than pain in the back of his head from the blow itself. He was cleared to return and played the remainder of the game, finishing without another field goal, making 1 of 2 free throws and turning over the ball with 3:05 left and his team down 80-75.

After talking of the blurry vision later – neither coach Frank Vogel nor Hibbert knew George had experienced the issue – George went through the evaluation process again. And again, the Pacers reported, he passed. But George will be evaluated further, probably as soon as Wednesday, prior to Game 3 Saturday in Miami.

“I’ve had a couple hits to the head,” Hibbert said, “so I hope he’s all right.”


VIDEO: Paul George and Dwyane Wade collide during Game 2

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Stephen Curry Back In Team USA Mix

HOUSTON – Before the season, he had health concerns over a series of ankle injuries. Then, he got a $44-million vote of confidence from management in the form of an extension. Once the ball actually dropped, he nearly made the All-Star team as one of the standouts from a successful early-season run by the Warriors.

There is now new affirmation of the return to prominence for Stephen Curry.

Curry, a member of Team USA for the 2010 world championships before being disappointed at being left off the roster for the 2012 Olympics, is back in contention for a spot with USA Basketball heading toward the 2014 World Cup (the former world championships). He is expected to receive an invitation to a July mini-camp in Las Vegas with approximately two dozen players, some who have been in the program before and some newcomers, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo told NBA.com. The United States will not be in any tournaments this summer.

“He definitely is,” Colangelo said of Curry being back on the radar. “He’s never really been off the radar. It’s always been about injuries with him. I think he continues to develop as a player and I plan to invite him this summer.”

Curry’s Warriors teammate David Lee, a Western Conference reserve for Sunday’s All-Star game at the Toyota Center, will likely get an invitation as well. Paul George of the Pacers, an Eastern Conference reserve and one of the rising young stars of the game, is also expected to be asked to play. It’s a formula that should help merge prospects for the program with some returning players.

Curry in some ways is an ideal player for the international game. He’s a shooter to help beat the zones Team USA sees regularly; not a great athlete, but able to play an up-tempo game the Americans like to use to beat slower opponents in transition. He also, importantly, comes with a great attitude that fits Colangelo’s desire for a drama-free squad devoid of ego issues.