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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Team USA getting ready for Japan 2006

The team is ready. LeBron James joined fellow class of 2003 NBA draft members Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Kirk Hinrich in making the cut as the USA trimmed its roster to 15 for the World Basketball Championships.

According to experts, they were expected to pass the first round of cuts as the American squad wrapped up a six-day training camp here on Tuesday.

We must keep in mind that after letting Seattle SuperSonics guard Luke Ridnour and Charlotte Bobcats forward Adam Morrison go on Tuesday, American boss Mike Krzyzewski still has three more cuts to make before the Worlds which begin August 19 in Japan. "I spoke to them (Ridnour and Morrison) and they were understanding and very appreciative," Krzyzewski noticed.

In fact, this will be one of the youngest teams full of NBA stars the U.S. has sent to the Worlds. Krzyzewski had to retool the roster because a number of important players either declined to play for the national team or pulled out with injuries. That absent list includes guard Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (knee injury), Paul Pierce of Boston (elbow) and rookie guard J.J. Redick of Orlando (back).

"If they (injuries and withdrawals) hadn't have happened, it for sure would have been tough to get down to 15 or 16 players, but these things take care of themselves," Krzyzewski admitted. Hinrich, 25, is no lock to survive that cut, but his 2003 draft classmates almost certainly are.

LeBron James, the 21-year-old superstar swingman of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Wade, the electric 24-year-old All-Star guard of the NBA champion Miami Heat, are the best of the bunch and among the 10 players chosen that are 25 or younger.

Other youngsters include Bosh (22), the All-Star forward of the Toronto Raptors, and Denver forward Carmelo Anthony (22); guards Gilbert Arenas of Washington (24) and Chris Paul of New Orleans (21); swingman Joe Johnson of Atlanta (25); forward-centre Dwight Howard of Orlando (20); and centre Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix (23).

"We do have a lot of young players," Krzyzewski said. "You could put seven or eight of those guys on a team and every one of them would be under 25 and they're good."

The elder statesmen include Los Angeles Clippers forward Elton Brand, Washington forward Antawn Jamison, Sacramento centre Brad Miller and defensive-minded forwards Shane Battier of Houston and Bruce Bowen of San Antonio.

It's important to mention that Team USA has not won an international event since the 2000 Olympics, where it was pushed in both the semi-final and final by Lithuania and France.

What's more, in the 2002 World Championships at Indianapolis, the Americans lost three times and finished an embarrassing sixth place.

And in the 2004 Olympics at Athens, Greece, Team USA again lost three encounters and settled for a bronze medal.

In fact, if Team USA does not win the World Championships - which it has not done since 1994 - it must qualify through the 2007 FIBA Tournament of the Americas in Venezuela. Time will tell.