LAS VEGAS—With Summer League displaying the youth and NBA dreams players are chasing, Vegas also sets the stage for the elite of the elite next month for USA Basketball.
While the Bulls were playing their third Summer League game Tuesday afternoon in Cox Pavilion, USA Basketball Director Jerry Colangelo sat across the concourse at the Thomas and Mack Center watching Dallas and Washington from a VIP seat.
In a month, Colangelo will preside over what he calls a “celebration” of USA basketball during a three-day minicamp from August 11-13.
There will be a USA basketball showcase at the Thomas and Mack center, a blue and white game that could play a part in determining who’ll make the trip to Rio de Janeiro to represent the country in the 2016 Olympic games.
Bulls guards Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler (a late addition according to ESPN) presumably will be in Las Vegas hoping to impress Colangelo and USA Basketball coach Mike Kryzyzewski.
Colangelo, a Chicago native, has paid attention to the road Rose has been on, and said he’s open to having a spot for the Bulls point guard considering his strong finish to the playoffs.
“We don’t want to act prematurely regarding anyone’s prospects or opportunities,” said Colangelo in an exclusive interview with CSNChicago.com. “We have a national team roster. The important thing this summer is for our people to come together, kind of a celebration if you will of USA basketball, get a read on where people are physically, what their attitude is going forward. And we have plenty of time regarding the selection of a roster for Rio.”
Seeing where players like Rose, Paul George (Indiana) and Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City) are with their rehabilitation or overall health is a chief concern for Colangelo. Seeing if LeBron James is up for his fourth run of Olympic play is whom Colangelo was referring to when he said “attitude going forward.”
The Cavaliers star hasn’t said publicly which way he was leaning but Colangelo said he’ll get a feel for what James wants to do next month. As for the Bulls oft-injured star who underwent meniscus surgery in late February before making a return in early April, Colangelo said special attention will be paid to the likes of Rose.
“Absolutely, there’s no question about it,” Colangelo said. “The ballplayers are valuable assets and we want to protect them as much as possible.”
The gruesome leg injury suffered by George at that very gym when he landed awkwardly against the basket stanchion cost George his season and the Pacers a chance at a decent 2015 playoff run.
It sparked concerns about NBA players participating in the USA Basketball program, as well as NBA team owners feeling like the teams inherently take all the risk without getting much in return, with the mob led of course by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
“We don’t want them to be at risk in any way,” Colangelo said. “Their first responsibility is to their team.”
But he added, “The good news is this: Everybody wants to play, they all want to participate and so it’ll solve itself. It’ll come out in the wash.”
“There’s a lot of considerations when you figure who’s gonna end up playing for you in the Olympics,” Colangelo said.
Golden State Warriors star and 2014-15 MVP Stephen Curry is a shoo-in at point guard while Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving will be out due to recovery for his broken kneecap he suffered in the NBA Finals.
Memphis point guard Mike Conley and Utah’s point guard Trey Burke have been invited to the camp in August, but neither are in Rose’s class as far as talent. Golden State’s Harrison Barnes, Orlando’s Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris are some swingmen who’ve been added to the camp in addition to Butler.
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Despite the light atmosphere Colangelo wants to establish for the August weekend, it’s clear he has an eye toward the 2015-16 NBA season and ensuing selection process, making attendance to this nearly mandatory for consideration.
“We have another NBA season, a season that will always have its injuries because it’s part of the game,” Colangelo said. “We can watch how guys progress, we can make sure they’re injury free and we’ll be in camp a year from now in preparation for Rio. We’ll have a roster of 15-18, from which we’ll take 12.
“And trust me, it’ll be a real difficult process. There’s so many players who want to be part of it, it’ll be a big job in selecting the team.”