LAS VEGAS — The U.S. men’s basketball team held its first practice Friday, and there was a quick reminder of the rocky run-up to the London Games.
Chris Paul was forced to leave the opening day of training camp to get an X-ray after hurting his thumb. The Americans don’t believe the injury is serious, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo calling it a tweak of a previous injury, and they hope Paul can practice today.
That would be some rare good news for a team has been severely weakened by injuries. Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all were forced to pull out, leaving the Americans with 15 players vying for 12 spots. The roster will be announced tonight.
Colangelo said he would discuss the roster with the coaching staff on Friday night but would put off any judgments until after today’s practice.
“Tonight we’ll have some deliberations about what took place today, but we’re still not making the final decision until we practice tomorrow,” he said. “We told the players we were going to do that and we’re not going to change.”
LeBron James, about two weeks removed from winning NBA Finals MVP honors after Miami’s championship, didn’t scrimmage Friday so he could get some extra rest. Deron Williams sat out as planned because he still can’t sign his $98 million extension with the Nets, and top draft pick Anthony Davis remained sidelined because of a sprained ankle.
That allowed the Americans time for extra looks at some of the players on the bubble, such as Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, James Harden and Andre Iguodala.
“You could build a case for each of the contenders if you will, depending on what you want,” Colangelo said. “It’s like a menu: Another shooter, it’s Eric Gordon. You want a scoring guard, it’s Harden. You want a defensive specialist, it’s Iguodala. You want another guy with length who can shoot the ball and run the court, it’s Rudy Gay.”
What the Americans really want is another big body, having lost their 2008 center rotation with the absences of Howard and Bosh. James and Carmelo Anthony even could see time at center, which would create offensive mismatches for the Americans but would leave them undersized on defense.