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Utah Jazz: Williams, Boozer 'virtual locks' for Team USA

Published: Wednesday, June 18 2008 12:03 a.m. MDT

Two Jazz stars — point guard Deron Williams and two-time NBA All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer — both have an increasingly likely shot at making USA Basketball's 12-man Olympic roster when it is unveiled Monday.

ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported Tuesday that Detroit Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups has withdrawn from consideration for the team, citing undisclosed personal family issues.

That makes Williams, who probably would have made it anyway, a virtual certainty for making his first Olympic team.

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski both have said previously the national team plans to take three point guards when it goes for the gold this August at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China.

Williams, Billups, Dallas' Jason Kidd (who supposedly has been promised a spot) and Chris Paul of New Orleans were the four under consideration.

"It's nerve-wracking," Williams said Monday, before word of Billups' withdrawal became public. "But I have no control over it.

"They're not even having tryouts, so hopefully what I did last year (at FIBA's Zone of the Americas qualifying tournament) was enough to secure my spot on the team," Williams added. "I'm going to keep working out and getting ready and in shape for training camp."

The Olympic team will hold a mini-camp later this month in Las Vegas, followed by training there in mid-July.

Colangelo recently told the Rocky Mountain News that Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony would fill one spot on the team.

But little else seemed set in stone when U.S./Duke University coach Krzyzewski told The Associated Press on Tuesday that picking the team is no easy task.

"Really we have more people qualified for those 12 spots than we can take, so that's what makes it tough," Krzyzewski said.

The other 11 choices beyond Anthony remain undetermined and/or undisclosed, with a trimmed-down pool of 13 — including Anthony, but not Billups — still in the running.

Boozer, a 2004 bronze medal-winning Olympian, has said often that he fully expects to go again this year, and ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan — based on conversations with unidentified USA Basketball officials and NBA sources — reported this week that he's a "lock" to make it along with Anthony, Kidd, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto's Chris Bosh, Orlando's Dwight Howard, Cleveland's LeBron James, Milwaukee's Michael Redd and Miami's Dwyane Wade.

Wrote Sheridan: "(Boozer) brings a physical, low-post offensive game that will be utilized against opponents who will be able to slow the pace and make it a battle of half-court sets."

Sheridan, before news of Billups' withdrawal broke, called Williams "on the bubble" along with Billups, Paul, Tyson Chandler of New Orleans, Detroit's Tayshaun Prince and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, but predicted that Williams and Paul would make it, Stoudemire and Billups would not and that Chandler would get the 12th spot over Prince.

Stoudemire's commitment to the team reportedly is in question because of postseason comments to the Arizona Republic regarding his surgically repaired knees. And the Detroit News recently reported that Billups, who played in this year's NBA postseason with an injured right hamstring, "didn't sound completely sure he was going to be part of the (team)."

"It's a matter of what you want to do and what you need to do," Billups told ESPN's Bucher. "Winning a gold medal is the one thing that I haven't accomplished, and I was looking forward to standing up on that big stage. That's what I really wanted. But I was taught family comes first, above anything else."

Williams and Paul, who would have been tough for USA Basketball to pick between, are the beneficiaries — though Williams might have had the edge over Paul.

"The higher-ups in USA Basketball see (Williams) as a long-term asset who can fill Kidd's role as team leader at the 2010 World Championship in Turkey and the 2012 London Olympics," Sheridan wrote. "He's a better shooter than Kidd and he's stronger than Paul — the latter factor being something to focus on when the Americans have to defend teams with tall point guards."


Contributing: Mike Sorensen

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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