Odom, Pierce out, prep star Oden in at training camp
NEW YORK -- This time, the United States is prepared to handle player withdrawals.
USA Basketball announced Thursday that Lamar Odom and Paul Pierce would miss training camp later this month. Another player, J.J. Redick, had recently said he wouldn't take part when camp opens in Las Vegas on July 19 because he has been out with a back injury.
But unlike in recent years, when the Americans had to scramble to fill out their team after players pulled out, they have a roster that now numbers 24 players after Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich was added Wednesday.
"It's never happened before where we had this group of people," coach Mike Krzyzewski said on a conference call, "and thank goodness we have because we've had a few family matters that were very serious and a few injuries that will preclude a few of these guys from participating."
Odom withdrew for personal reasons. His 6½-month-old son, Jayden, died late last month after apparently suffocating while sleeping in his crib in New York.
Pierce is expected to have minor surgery on his left elbow in August. All the players remain part of the roster and will participate over the next two years.
"That's why you have a roster," Krzyzewski said. "That's why you have a team, so that when these normal life situations come up we can go on without it being an emergency or calling upon somebody to crash-train in order to be part of a team. And that's kind of what happened in our world championships in 2002 and it happened a little bit also for the Olympics in 2004."
The Americans finished sixth in the 2002 world championships in Indianapolis and won a bronze medal in Athens.
The team already knew that two of the 23 players originally named wouldn't be available in August for the world championships. Chauncey Billups' wife is expecting a child, and Milwaukee guard Michael Redd is getting married.
"Because we had a large roster we kind of built in a plan that, as Coach said, these things happen in life," USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said. "Babies are born, marriages take place, injuries, surgeries, etc. And so we have a lot of flexibility and we're pleased about that."
USA Basketball also said Thursday that 7-foot Greg Oden, the consensus national high school player of the year, will attend the opening of camp but won't take part. He recently had surgery for a torn ligament in his right wrist and is expected to be out until the fall.
But Colangelo and Krzyzewski expect the 18-year-old center -- who surely would have been the No. 1 pick in last month's draft had high school players still been eligible -- to have a role in the future, so they invited him, anyway. Colangelo had considered Oden for the original 23-man roster.
After training camp, the U.S. team will train and play exhibition games in China and South Korea before opening the world championships in Japan on Aug. 19.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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