USA Basketball officially announced its 20-man collection of finalists for the 2012 London Olympics and Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge was one of the 20. Last week, varying reports had the group being either 18 or 19 players deep; Aldridge was not included in the first report and was included in the second.
This selection gives him the opportunity to battle for one of the final 12 roster spots.
"Aldridge is having a terrific season," Team USA Director Jerry Colangelo said of the selection during a Monday morning conference call. "He also has some physical attributes we're quite interested in. His length is important. He can shoot the ball and pass it. He can get up and down the court. We certainly always look for the very best we can find in big men who have mobility and can defend."
"I think I can definitely fit into the group," Aldridge told Blazers.com in video comments. "Give them a good dynamic, being able to shoot and run the floor. I think that's big in Euroball."
Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin were the only two "outsiders" included in the group. During the call, Colangelo again stressed the importance of accumulated "equity" through past participation and noted all the "champions" on this roster. Eight of the 20 players selected won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and another 10 won a gold medal at the 2010 World Championships in Turkey.
After Aldridge withdrew for personal reasons from the 2010 World Championships team, Colangelo said the decision was "not a positive" development for his 2012 Olympics team hopes but that he would "never close the door."
On Monday, Colangelo said only: "LaMarcus Aldridge was on the Select team in 2008. Circumstances did not allow him to participate in the 2010 World Championships."
But Colangelo also talked about the importance of building a "program" that has a "pipeline" that will sustain itself indefinitely. He explained that Team USA opted for an expanded 20-man roster because it helps the program "protect its backside with more flexibility" as the 2012 summer free agency period runs concurrent to Team USA's practice schedule and a number of Team USA finalists are set to become free agents.
Aldridge is not one of them. Locked into a long-term contract with the Blazers, he enters the summer, theoretically, with no distractions.
"If I just go be me and play my game, I should make it," Aldridge said. "But if I don't, they are going to put together a really good team to go win it."
Team USA will be the favorite at the 2012 Olympics and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski called it the "most talented" of the nation teams that he has coached.
"We are a target," Colangelo said. "We understand that. It's better to be a target than chasing."
2011 EuroBasket champions Spain -- loaded with NBA players including Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Ricky Rubio, etc. -- is considered the biggest threat.
"Spain will be a formidable opponent," Krzyzewski, when asked how the final roster's frontcourt might be constructed. "The international game is a little bit different. There are more continuity offenses. Much more so than the NBA with isolations. The versatility on defense is essential.
"At the 2008 Olympics, [Chris] Bosh did an amazing job at the center position," Krzyzewski continued, noting that the Olympics will be playing with an NBA's rectangular key in 2012 rather than the international game's trapezoidal one used previously. "There may be more low-post play than there has been in the past."
Colangelo added: "The ability to have more versatile big men on the 20-man roster gives us the opportunity to be more selective when we get down to the final 12. We'll be watching a lot of things over the course of this year in the way of match-ups, not only us matching up against our major competition but vice versa."
Krzyzewski said that a selection to Team USA was, first and foremost, an act of service to the country.
"We have used the military as a good example of selfless service and we've had many members of the military speak to our teams," he said. "I like the fact that we have a roster full of guys who have been champions."
Here's the press release. More details at USABasketball.com here.
USA Basketball has named Portland Trail Blazers forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge as a finalist for the U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, it was announced today.
"LaMarcus has been a guy that USA Basketball has been interested in for a number of years," said Trail Blazers Head Coach and USA Basketball assistant coach Nate McMillan. "He's a guy that fits into the style of play that Coach Krzyzewski is looking for, an athletic big man that can run, play defense, shoot the ball, and is versatile enough to play several different positions. I think he would be a great addition to that team."
Aldridge, 26, is averaging a career-best 22.8 points to go with 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists through 12 games this season.
An All-NBA Third Team selection in 2010-11, Aldridge has career averages of 17.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.01 blocked shots in six NBA seasons with the Trail Blazers.
The current 20-player roster also includes Carmelo Anthony (New York), Chauncey Billups (L.A. Clippers), Chris Bosh (Miami), Kobe Bryant (L.A. Lakers), Tyson Chandler (New York), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City), Rudy Gay (Memphis), Eric Gordon (New Orleans), Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers), Dwight Howard (Orlando), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia), LeBron James (Miami), Kevin Love (Minnesota), Lamar Odom (Dallas), Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers), Derrick Rose (Chicago), Dwyane Wade (Miami), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City) and Deron Williams (New Jersey).
The official 12-man U.S. Olympic team roster will be announced later this year. The 2012 Summer Olympics will be held July 27-Aug. 12 in London, England.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter