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Damian Lillard Added to List of USA Basketball 2016 Olympic Finalists

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Despite some rocky history with USA basketball, Damian Lillard has worked his way into the fold.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY is reporting that Damian Lillard has been added to the list of finalists for the 2016 USA Olympic team.

This is a full about face from USA Basketball, considering that Lillard was left off the original 30 man roster just a few weeks ago. This now brings the roster total up to 31 players, which will need to be pared down to a final roster of 12.  Casey Holdahl of FowardCenter.net had this to offer from Lillard, concerning his initial exclusion from the roster .

"There's no hard feelings toward (USA Basketball), but any time I go into a situation, I want to have a real opportunity," said Lillard on January 18. "If I'm going to invest myself in something I want to have a real opportunity at it and the last time that I did that I felt like the decision was already made before the decision was made. Whether I played good or bad I didn't feel like it mattered."

So what changed over the course of a few weeks to change USA Basketball's mind? As has become the norm for Lillard, he inserted himself with his actions on the court and some choice, albeit private, words for the Managing Director of USA Men's Basketball, Jerry Colangelo:

"I recently received a call from Damian, and during our conversation he expressed his desire to be considered for the U.S. Olympic Team and to remain involved with the USA National Team in the future as well," said Jerry Colangelo, managing director of the USA Men's National Team, via press release. "Both Mike (Krzyzewski) and I feel like Damian is playing at a very high level and that he should be added to our list of Olympic finalists. Damian has been a member of the USA National Team since 2014, and he participated in National Team training camps in 2013 and 2014, so he does have equity in USA Basketball, which is always important to me.

You can read Holdahl's complete write-up, here. For further context from Lillard regarding being left off the team initially, you can read more about it from Holdahl here.

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