The good news for the Utah Jazz duo of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams is they have a shorter wait than expected to find out if they will be named to the 2008 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team.
The bad news? There will be no last-ditch chance to prove themselves and impress the USA Basketball coaches and officials who are selecting the Olympic squad.
Earlier this week, USA Basketball announced that rather than whittle its 33-member U.S. Select roster of Olympic hopefuls down to a more manageable 16- to 18-player group invited to a training/tryout camp June 28-29 in Las Vegas, it instead would select its 12-player roster going into the Vegas mini-camp.
The Olympic roster also allows three alternates.
Neither Boozer nor Williams are guaranteed locks on or off the squad, despite previous international experience and NBA-star credentials.
A reserve on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team that settled for the bronze medal, Boozer was named a 2008 NBA All-Star and third-team All-NBA selection. Williams, who played last summer on the U.S. team that won the FIBA Americas Championship and earned the United States its Bejing Games invite, missed All-Star honors but one-upped Boozer by being named second-team All-NBA at the end of the season.
And while Boozer's scoring average tailed off going from the regular season (21.1 points) to the postseason (16.0 ppg), Williams increased his scoring from 18.8 to 21.6 in the playoffs while keeping his assists average at 10 a game.
But Williams is part of a point-guard logjam that includes the Dallas Mavericks' Jason Kidd, the New Orleans Hornets' Chris Paul and the Detroit Pistons' Chauncey Billups. Three point guards and possibly only two are expected to be on the U.S. squad.
Meanwhile, Boozer hopes team officials overlook his less-than-stellar playoff finish and consider him worthy against the likes of frontcourt big men Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors), Elton Brand (Los Angeles Clippers), Tyson Chandler (Hornets), Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic), Brad Miller (Sacramento Kings) and Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers) and Amare Stoudamire (Phoenix Suns).
In Boozer's mind, however, Utah's pick-and-roll tandem are Beijing-bound.
"Yeah, I'm sure we'll both make it," Boozer said, the day after the Jazz were eliminated in the playoffs' second round by the Lakers.
No matter that it means a shorter offseason and additional wear and tear on one's body, with several stateside training sessions and a handful of pre-Olympic exhibitions on tap even before the Beijing Games get under way.
"But you've got to remember you've got a chance to play for your country, and that doesn't come along for athletes very often," Boozer said. "We don't take that very lightly we relish the opportunity and that's something both me and Deron will do and be very excited to be a part of that team.
"First, obviously, we have to make it," he added, "and I'm sure we will. We have to relish the opportunity to play on the Olympic team because it may not come around again."
Williams is a willing candidate.
"I'd love to be on that team," said the third-year Jazz point guard last month before departing Salt Lake City. "It would be a great honor to have a chance to win a gold medal and represent my country."
For Williams, it would also be a welcome sequel to last summer, when he played backup to and sometimes alongside Kidd "a player I grew up watching" while learning from top U.S. coaches like Mike Krzyewski and meshing with a dozen of the NBA's elite "was the best thing for me," he said.
The 26-year-old Boozer already has one Olympics notch in his belt, but he would love a second and a chance to be more prominently involved than 2004 in Athens, when he was among a cadre of young American reserves that included Stoudamire, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.
"I had my first experience when I was a kid, and we didn't get a chance to play very much me and LeBron, D-Wade and Amare and Carmelo," Boozer said. "It was the other guys, but we supported them.
"We actually had some good guys in front of us, but at the time we were young 'Bron, D-Wade and 'Melo were in their rookie years, me and Amare were in our second years," he said. "At that time, we were all young. We're much better players now, we're all all-stars and all-NBA players. Deron should have been an all-star he will be next year."
But all the trappings of next year a new season, a fresh start, a chance to improve as individuals and as a team is overshadowed by what is at hand this summer in Beijing.
"It's the biggest stage there is," Williams said. "It's not just the NBA. It's us as a whole representing our county a basketball player doing his duty for the country. We're going over there and representing. So it would be a great honor to be on that team.
"And think of the great players who had an opportunity to win a gold medal," he said. "I mean, how many people get to do that?"He and Boozer hope they are two among this year's 12.
Make the Olympic team call
Click here and try your hand at picking the 2008 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team. Listed are the 33 NBA players who comprise the U.S. Select roster, from which the 12-player Olympic squad and three alternates will be chosen.
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