Vince Carter to replace Lakers guard
LOS ANGELES -- As expected, Kobe Bryant won't play for the U.S. team in next month's Olympic qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico, although his agent said Thursday the Los Angeles Lakers star intends to compete in the Athens Games in 2004.
There was no mention of the felony sexual assault charge Bryant faces in the statement issued by agent Rob Pelinka. It said only that Bryant won't participate in the qualifying tournament "due to rehabilitation work from his recent arthroscopic shoulder and knee surgeries."
"Kobe, however, remains 100 percent committed to representing the United States at the 2004 Games in Athens," the statement said.
Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors, will replace Bryant.
Carter has been slowed by knee injuries in the years since and averaged only 20.6 points last season -- his lowest total since his rookie season -- in just 43 games.
Carter will play in the Tournament of the Americas qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico from Aug. 20-31. Three Olympic spots are open to teams from the FIBA-Americas region.
Bryant underwent surgery on his right shoulder June 12 in New York, and had knee surgery in Colorado on July 1 -- a day after a 19-year-old woman claims he assaulted her.
Bryant was charged last Friday and proclaimed his innocence during a nationally televised news conference although he did acknowledge having what he called consensual sex with the woman.
The 24-year-old Bryant is free on bail and is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 6.
The U.S. team will practice Aug. 10-18 in New York and the qualifying tournament begins Aug. 24 in San Juan. The top three teams advance to Athens.
Among those on the U.S. roster are Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady and Ray Allen.
USA Basketball will select Bryant's replacement for the qualifying tournament.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.