Team USA turns to new face Bibby, old friend Malone
Formal paperwork offering roster spots to Bibby and Malone is scheduled to be sent out this week, according to league sources. Both players, the sources said, have already indicated to USA Basketball that they would accept the invitations if selected to the team.
In Malone's case, joining Team USA would suggest that he plans to keep playing after this season. Malone, who turns 40 in July, has said he won't make a firm declaration about his future until after the season.
Bibby and Malone would bring Team USA's total of confirmed participants to six as it seeks to assemble a group that will spend the next two summers together. Last Thursday, USA Basketball announced San Antonio's Tim Duncan, New Jersey's Jason Kidd, Orlando's Tracy McGrady and Milwaukee's Ray Allen as charter members of the squad -- coached by Philadelphia's Larry Brown -- that will try to avenge the United States' sixth-place finish at last summer's World Championships in Indianapolis. First it must qualify for the 2004 Olympics at a regional tournament in Puerto Rico in August.
USAB officials are holding spots open for Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, which would take the roster to eight. Bryant told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that "I'll be there this summer -- it's pretty much a done deal." ESPN.com reported Thursday that Garnett, after initial reluctance, is now strongly considering a return to the national team, thanks partly to some strong lobbying from Kidd.
With Duncan, Malone and potentially Garnett as the only big men on the roster, Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal remains a contender for one of the last roster spots. The prospects are less promising for Philadelphia's Allen Iverson, who appears to have fallen behind Houston's Steve Francis, Phoenix's Stephon Marbury and Dallas' Michael Finley in the battle for guard spots.
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