The U.S. Olympic men's basketball team's roster was officially completed yesterday with the addition of five players, all substitutes for others who had originally committed but pulled out for personal, professional or health reasons. The result: The U.S. will have its youngest team since NBA players began participating in 1992, when the original "Dream Team" waltzed to the gold medal in Barcelona.
USA Basketball officials announced the addition of the Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lamar Odom and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat and former University of Connecticut center Emeka Okafor, who last month became the second pick in the NBA draft, chosen by the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.
The 12-man roster doesn't include a single player with Olympic experience, and its average age when the Olympics start will be 23.6 years. Anthony, Wade and Cleveland's LeBron James were all NBA rookies last season, and Okafor hasn't yet played an NBA game.
"These guys are all excited to be there," said Larry Brown, the coach of the Detroit Pistons who will serve as the U.S. head coach. "A lot of the young players that we're talking about have performed extremely well in the best league in the world. I'm more excited about coaching this group than, probably, a real all-star team because they are the future of our league. They are the future of USA Basketball."
The inexperienced team -- which will work out for the first time July 26 in Jacksonville, Fla., before heading to Athens in August -- has been assembled at a time when international competition is growing stiffer. The U.S. is 109-2 all-time in Olympic competition and has won 12 of 14 gold medals, but a more talented and experienced team struggled to win gold in 2000 in Sydney.
"The competition is really high over there," Anthony said yesterday in a conference call with reporters. "Everybody is on center stage. There's a billion people watching. [Nobody wants] to get embarrassed.
"I know everybody says we got a young team. But at the same time, we've got young talent."
Players such as Mike Bibby, Jason Kidd, Jermaine O'Neal, Tracy McGrady and Karl Malone have pulled out in recent months. The result is a roster that is heavy on small forwards. Stephon Marbury of the New York Knicks is the only true point guard on the roster.
"If I had my druthers," Brown said, "I'd have another guard."