The NBA’s biggest stars move closer to going to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant and Miami playmaker LeBron James were among 11 members of the 2012 gold medal team named for the US player pool for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Oklahoma City star Durant leads the NBA with 31 points a game while James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, ranks second at 26.2 with New York’s Carmelo Anthony third at 26.1 a game.
James and Anthony are two-time Olympic champions as are two other members of the pool, Brooklyn’s Deron Williams and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The only member of the US London lineup of NBA superstars not back is Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who is injured.
Also returning from the London squad are New York’s Tyson Chandler, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Houston’s James Harden, Golden State’s Andre Iguodala, Minnesota’s Kevin Love and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
The pool also includes 2008 Olympic gold medalist Dwight Howard of Houston and Los Angeles Clippers playmaker Blake Griffin, who was injured after being named to the 2012 Olympic team.
“I think we have taken a step up from the pool that we had in the last quad, and it’s exciting to see this many people interested in being a part of the program,” US 2012 and 2016 Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
“This is the first step and then we see what happens with all the guys with family situations, injuries, contracts and all that.
“We have to allow those things to go on then react accordingly but having a strong pool gives us some flexibility in that regard.”
Two members of the American 2010 world championship team, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Chicago’s Derrick Rose, out for the second season in a row with a knee injury, are also in the lineup.
The remainder of the pool includes Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, on an NBA record run of consecutive games with a 3-point basket, Cleveland ace Kyrie Irving, Indiana star Paul George and Portland standouts LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard.
The rest of the lineup includes Utah’s Gordon Hayward, Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Washington’s Bradley Beal, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State’s David Lee and Klay Thompson and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard.
In all, the roster features the NBA’s 11 current top scorers, seven of the NBA’s top 11 rebounders, assists leaders Paul and Curry and blocked shots leader Davis.
These players will for the base for the American lineup at this year’s World Cup of Basketball, formerly known as the World Championships, in Spain as well as the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and the 2015 Tournament of the Americas if the US team fails to qualify for Rio by winning the World Cup.
A smaller group will begin training camp in July for the World Cup, set for September in Spain.
“We believe it’s extremely important,” Krzyzewski said. “And the players are showing that commitment by being part of the pool.”
Other players can be added to the lineup based on both emerging talent and needs as events happen over the next 2 1/2 years on the road to Rio.
“This roster is extremely talented, deep and versatile,” said USA Basketball national team managing director Jerry Colangelo. “We are very fortunate to have 11 of the 12 members who won gold at the London Olympics wanting to be part of the national team program again. To receive that kind of commitment is remarkable.”
Since a disappointing bronze-medal effort at the 2004 Athens Olympics led to the creation of the current US selection system, the Americans are 62-1 with two Olympic gold medals and a world title. The loss came to Greece in the 2006 world semi-finals at Japan.