For the Utah Jazz, a winning hand for its USA Basketball involvement in the 2008 Beijing Olympics is a pair of sevens.
The Jazz duo of point guard Deron Williams and power forward Carlos Boozer both of whom wore the USA jersey No. 7 the last time they played internationally were among the 12 NBA players named Monday to represent the United States at the upcoming Summer Games.
Joining them are Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets, Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks, Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets, Tayshaun Prince of the Detroit Pistons, Michael Redd of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.
The Jazz is the only NBA team with multiple Olympic team members, and the Utah franchise spotlighted the twosome at a Monday afternoon news conference Williams attending in person, but Boozer unsuccessful in joining in by teleconference from Miami.
"Having the chance to represent your country and to play at the highest level possible you can't even begin to imagine what it's going to be like. ... Definitely, I'd put winning a gold medal up there with winning an NBA championship it's just that special," said Williams, who along with Boozer learned of their selections more than a week ago.
"We were texting back and forth, saying 'congrats' and how we were looking forward to getting to compete with each other again and just having a chance to win a gold medal," said Williams, who will be making his Olympics debut. Boozer is a repeat invitee after playing in the 2004 Athens Games.
"Together it's going to be another special stepping stone for us to go through together, and it will make us just stronger for the upcoming season," Williams added. "We know we're going to get better playing against and playing with the type of players we'll be with this summer."
The double invite drew the inevitable comparisons once again of the two former Jazz superstars Karl Malone and John Stockton, who teamed up twice for the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. The Jazz underscored the comparisons at Monday's gathering, coupling framed USA Basketball posters of the two point guards on one side of the podium and the two power forwards on the other.
"It's definitely great to get compared to two of the best players to ever play the game," Williams said, "but we've said the whole time we've got a long ways to go before we can even be compared to those guys and the things they did in their career. It brings us closer, but we're still far away."
Williams, Boozer and the other 10 players were selected from the 33-member U.S. Select roster, consisting of the top NBA talent and compiled by USA Basketball over the past several years in preparation for the '08 Olympics.
The U.S. team will be guided by Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has led U.S. teams the past two summers in international competition the 2006 World Championships and the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, with the United States winning the latter for its Beijing invite.
Wearing No. 7 last summer, Williams said Krzyzewski impresses him with "his intensity, and when he talks, the passion he has you can see it in his eyes."
Boozer, who played collegiately for Krzyzewski at Duke, was a member of the '04 U.S. team wearing No. 7 that suffered three losses in Athens and settled for the bronze. He hasn't played internationally since, sitting out the summer of '06 because of injury and last summer because of a family medical situation.
"I'm so honored to be on this team, and it's going to be exciting to have my teammate alongside of me," said Boozer in a statement released by the Jazz later Monday. "For the guys who were in Athens, we have a chance to redeem ourselves. We have a team filled with great players and we have a terrific coaching staff, led by Coach K, who I look forward to playing for again."
Prior to the Beijing Games, which run Aug. 8-24, the U.S. Olympic team will play a series of exhibitions in Macau and Shanghai, including an Aug. 3 game against Russia, which features the Jazz's Andrei Kirilenko.
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