Las Vegas • Now that his team is set, Kobe Bryant has a message for the rest of the world:
Team USA is comin’ for ya.
The oldest member of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team that will chase a gold medal at the London Olympics later this month said Saturday he gets the sense that other teams around the world believe the gap between them and the Americans is still shrinking, “and they feel like they can beat us.”
But “we know what’s at stake,” Bryant said at a news conference to announce the 12-man roster at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino. “We know what’s at hand. We know we’re representing. So come Olympic time, we’re going to be ready to go and we’re going to bring back the gold medal to the U.S.”
The 33-year-old Bryant was one of the nine players known to be on the team; the big news Saturday was which of six players fighting for the final three spots would make it.
Turns out, high-flying Blake Griffin, defensive specialist Andre Igoudala and NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden did, giving the defending gold medalists a versatile — if not exactly towering — lineup with which to take on the world.
All three are Olympic newcomers.
“I’m proud to say that we’ve put together, in my opinion, a terrific team,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said, “with great athleticism and great versatility. And we believe we’re going to be successful.”
The three final choices joined the nine who were considered locks for the team: Bryant and fellow guards Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook; forwards LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love; and center Tyson Chandler.
Durant, Westbrook and Harden all play for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, while Anthony and Chandler are teammates with the New York Knicks.
Five of the players — Bryant, James, Williams, Anthony and Paul — were on the team that won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Another five — Durant, Chandler, Iguodala, Love and Westbrook — won gold at the 2010 World Championships.
“Now we’re trying to bring both teams together and make one team,” James said.
Griffin, especially, addresses a need for strength and power inside, in the wake of injuries to potential Olympians such as Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. He showed that he is fully recovered from the knee injury that bothered him in the NBA playoffs, in part by putting on a spectacular dunking display after practice Saturday.
The decision means that guard Eric Gordon, forward Rudy Gay and No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis were left out. Davis has been battling a sprained ankle that kept him from scrimmaging during the team’s practices at UNLV the past two days.