Marion to miss World Championship with injury
LAS VEGAS -- Getting the U.S. men's national team roster down to a manageable number of 15 for the trip to Asia next month became a bit easier Monday when Shawn Marion pulled out because of a left knee injury.
Marion told ESPN.com that he won't make the trip to Japan for the World Championship after Monday's final training camp practice at UNLV's Cox Pavilion. Players who don't make the trip aren't being cut from the overall national team program, which is a three-year commitment.
"The process [of picking the team] was great," Marion said. "Everybody feels a part of the family for all three years. If I'm not there, I'll still feel like I'm there cheering them on."
Marion, who was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1999 out of UNLV, where he played for one season after transferring from Vincennes University (Ind.), said simply, "I'm not going."
"My knee has been bothering me a bit. I sat out the last two days of practice. I just came in here and got right into it. So I'm going to check it out [Tuesday]. I'll make sure there's nothing wrong with it, rest it and take care of it."
The 15 players who are expected to return to Las Vegas on July 31 for exhibition games will be announced early Tuesday at the Wynn Hotel. The Americans don't have to submit a final roster of 12 players until 24 hours before the first game in Japan on Aug. 19, according to USA spokesman Craig Miller.
Marion's departure trims the roster to 17, leaving two more possible cuts -- likely Seattle point guard Luke Ridnour and former Gonzaga forward and Charlotte Bobcats first-round draft pick Adam Morrison. That means the 15 players likely to travel to Asia are: Carmelo Anthony, Gilbert Arenas, Shane Battier, Chris Bosh, Bruce Bowen, Elton Brand, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, Joe Johnson, Brad Miller, Chris Paul, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade and Kirk Hinrich. The coaching staff will meet Tuesday morning before the news conference to make the final call. Ridnour looks likely to lose out to Chicago's Hinrich, and Morrison is up against veteran options.
Morrison's coach at Gonzaga, Mark Few, was in attendance and said the forward knew going in he would have a hard time making the squad.
Ridnour told ESPN.com that although he hadn't been told he definitely wouldn't be going to Asia, he expects to receive the news.
"I'm here for the experience, and if it doesn't happen this summer, then I've got two more years," Ridnour said. "When they called me during the season, they told me that there were a lot of veterans and it would be tough to make it. But I've got a bright future, and I'm excited about it."
Ridnour is caught in a logjam at point guard. Paul of New Orleans/Oklahoma City is expected to compete for starter's minutes. U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke also talked about Hinrich's ability to play pressure defense and Finals MVP Wade's ballhandling skills.
Krzyzewski didn't rule out using younger talent, though, to perform some of the more pedestrian activities at the point.
"You don't want to use gold for bathroom fixtures," Krzyzewski said. "You want to use your natural resources, as well. Not to put down those other guys, but we'd rather it not be Dwyane. Joe Johnson could also play there, so we have some flexibility."
Hinrich sat out half of Monday's practice with what he characterized as some tightness behind his left knee, but he said he could have played if pressed. He anticipated he was going to make the final 15.
"They're just being cautious," Hinrich said.
So the numbers are stacked against Ridnour. Marion's injury means Washington forward Jamison is safe, for now, as is Sacramento's Miller and Houston forward Battier, who played for Krzyzewski at Duke.
The Americans are slated to have 15 players available on the roster for an exhibition against Puerto Rico at the Thomas & Mack Center on Aug. 3, then for games against China and Brazil in Guangzhou, China, Aug. 7-8. The squad then will train Aug. 9-11 in Hong Kong and play the World Basketball Challenge Aug. 13 and 15 in Seoul, South Korea -- against Lithuania and Korea -- before participating in the FIBA World Championship Aug. 19-Sept. 3 in Saitama, Japan.
"The beauty of a fluid roster is that it covers a lot of different things that happen, like injuries," Krzyzewski said.
Asked about the number 15, Krzyzewski said he's not married to that, or any other, number of players.
"It's not a magic 15 or 14 or 16," he said. "We don't want to place ourselves in a position where we have to call on somebody [from Asia]."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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