Friday, July 6, 2012 | 2 a.m.
After you get a new car, you’re very picky about which friend you first let take it for a test drive. That person has to meet all kinds of qualifications, show a history of safe driving and promise to stick to the speed limit (even though they probably won’t).
UNLV basketball coach Dave Rice’s new car is the Mendenhall Center, and he figured he could do worse than tossing the keys to USA Basketball and its coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
“It’s their building,” Rice said.
The U.S. men’s national team officially begins training camp for the 2012 London Olympics at noon Friday in Mendenhall. This is the organization’s fifth summer in Las Vegas since 2006 (there were no activities last year), and negotiations are ongoing to keep them in town.
They will train behind closed doors for six days and then play an exhibition game against the Dominican Republic at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 12, in the Thomas & Mack Center.
Before the team can even get to that point, though, they have to figure out exactly who is on the team.
Injuries depleted the original 20-man roster, especially in the frontcourt, and as a result their June 18 deadline was pushed back to Saturday, July 7. That’s when USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo and Krzyzewski will announce their official 12-man roster live from the Wynn at 5 p.m. on NBA TV. A selection show begins airing at 4 p.m.
Colangelo said earlier this week that nine of the spots are already guaranteed. Those are going to 2008 Beijing Olympic gold-medal winners LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Also guaranteed spots are 2010 FIBA world champions Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler and Russell Westbrook.
That leaves six players competing for the final three spots. Colangelo insisted that college player of the year Anthony Davis is still in contention despite hurting his ankle at a New Orleans Hornets workout earlier this week. The other candidates are Blake Griffin, James Harden, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon and Andre Iguodala.
CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman reported that Griffin is expected to be on the team. Between Griffin and Davis, at least one of them figures to make the team because of the roster’s lack of size. Injuries to Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh, plus Lamar Odom’s decision this week to not participate, have left the team thin up front.
The United States also lost guards Dwayne Wade, Chauncey Billups and Derrick Rose to injuries, but the plethora of ball handlers already in the fold makes that an easier hole to plug.
Gay, Gordon and Iguodala all played on the 2010 World Championships, which would seem to give them a leg up as Colangelo often likes to reward players who have helped USA Basketball in the past. However, it may be difficult to leave Harden off the team after his stellar season.
While all of this is taking place in his new car, Rice will sit back and soak it in. Not many college coaches have this caliber of guests swing through in the summer.
“We’re proud of our association with USA Basketball, both from a basketball standpoint and from a patriotic standpoint,” Rice said. “We appreciate that they’re representing our country.”
Several of UNLV’s incoming players arrive this weekend for summer classes on Monday. Rice said he wasn’t sure if his guys would be able to meet the world’s best, but you can bet the student-athletes are going to try to find a way. Mendenhall is their building, too, and when LeBron James is in your building, you don’t just go somewhere else without trying to sneak a peek.
“It’s exciting for us to be able to say that USA Basketball is going to use our facilities,” Rice said. “Certainly, it’s helped our recruiting from a standpoint that Las Vegas has become such a central place for basketball.”
This week it’s USA Basketball. Then come the NBA Summer League and AAU tournaments. And before you know it, the calendar will flip to August and Rice will take his keys back for the season, ready to ignite a dream team of his own.