Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press
Miami Heat forward LeBron James, right, goes up for a shot against Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger (33) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012, in Miami.

NEW YORK — Jerry Colangelo has been speaking to the best American basketball players, asking if they still want to play in the Olympics.

All of them say they do.

The next step is seeing which ones will have the chance.

USA Basketball plans to announce the 18 players who will be candidates for the Olympic team by the middle of this month, Colangelo said Friday.

From LeBron James to Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant to Derrick Rose, players from the 2008 Olympic champions and 2010 world champions could make up a formidable U.S. squad that should head to London as the overwhelming favorite.

"We have so much talent right now, the pool is extraordinary," Colangelo said.

The final 12-man roster and six alternates must be submitted June 18, before the NBA finals will be complete. But all 18 names have to be given to the U.S. Olympic Committee by the end of January to be placed in the drug program.

Colangelo said the announcement will be made by Jan. 18. He has spent the last few days reaching out to the players' agents, and about the half the players themselves, and all of them reconfirmed their interest in playing.

Quite a difference from the state of U.S. basketball when Colangelo took over in 2005, when the U.S. couldn't find enough players who cared to keep their commitments to play in previous year's Olympics.

"That's behind us now," he said. "We've created a situation where players now desire to be a part of it and so now we have a different set of issues. Now we have more players than a roster can call for."

The roster will be a mixture of the gold medalists from Beijing, and the one that ended the U.S. drought in the world championship with an entirely different roster.

The strength remains the point guards, including Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook; and wing players that include the likes of James, Durant, and Carmelo Anthony.

But Colangelo said he will also consider teams the U.S. would have to match up with, mentioning Spain and Brazil among them. Both have quality big men, meaning players such as Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler could get stronger consideration as possible backups to Dwight Howard.

"There's a lot of considerations before we get to the 12, and the good news is all we have to deal with is 18 right now," Colangelo said. "And I think within our group, that group, we have a lot of flexibility and we'll make that determination as best we can come June."

Colangelo has told all the players that for now they are only guaranteed to be part of the final 18.

The biggest challenge facing the Americans, like most countries, could be the schedule. With the lockout meaning the NBA finals could end as late as June 26, there will be no ability to have a tryout camp, and little more than a week before the team has to report to training camp in Las Vegas on July 5. Colangelo said the team will be sensitive those players who had lengthy playoff runs, which could mean extra rest for James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh if Miami gets back to the finals.

"We're preparing as best we can and we will be there's nothing that we will not have prepared for," Colangelo said.

He's also been planning the pre-Olympic schedule, which is expected to send the Americans to Washington and then Barcelona, along with the one exhibition game that has already been announced against Britain in Manchester, England.

"We're really kind of in the homestretch for us as we prepare," Colangelo said.

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