The Dream Team Gets Dreamier: Team USA Adds Blake Griffin to Olympic Pool

The 20-player group will be narrowed down to a final dozen by June. Which NBA stars will get cut?

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Bret Hartman / AP

Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin during the second half of a game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in Los Angeles.

USA Basketball has added two more players to the pool from which it will select its 2012 Olympic men’s team. Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin, the Los Angeles Clippers star who jumps over Kias at dunk contests and interned at Funny or Die during the lockout, now have a shot at making the team. The pool is up to 20 players; on June 18, USA Basketball must submit its final 12-man roster for the Games.

That means eight premier NBA players are going to get cut, just like any skinny freshman going out for his varsity squad. But at least in high school, you have tryouts. Since the Olympics start in late July, earlier than usual, and the lockout-delayed NBA season won’t end by the June 18 deadline, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski will have to choose the team without the benefit of a training camp. “I’m watching much more NBA basketball than I had intended,” Colangelo tells NewsFeed.

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So whose hearts will be breaking come June? Colangelo won’t reveal that now, but you can probably lock in six players who won gold in Beijing for a roster spot: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.  We don’t see how you can keep Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose or Griffin off any basketball team.  So that leaves Chris Bosh and Deron Williams from the Beijing Olympic team, plus Tyson Chandler, Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay, Kevin Love, Lamar Odom, Chauncey Billups, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala and Aldridge competing for three spots.

If you’re a basketball coach, this is an awfully nice problem. International hoops isn’t as physical as the NBA, so although New York Knicks tough-guy Chandler would add extra muscle, we can’t see USA hoops dumping Bosh, especially if he’s en route to winning an NBA title with James and Wade (sorry, Heat haters). Love’s passing skills mesh well with the more-free flowing style of the Olympics, plus he’s a rebounding machine, so we see him on the roster. And since the Team USA had no problem picking three point guards for the ’08 team, we forecast Williams joining Paul and Rose in a dream rotation of dribblers.

So how would you feel about sending James, Bryant, Wade, Anthony, Howard, Paul, Durant, Bosh, Griffin, Rose, Love and Williams to London to defend U.S. gold? Well, this sounds like a team that would give the ’92 Dream Team, of Jordan, Bird, Magic et. al., a pretty decent game. So you can expect a lot of blowouts in London.

“This is a nice position to be in, but we take nothing for granted,” says Colangelo. “We want a blend of youth and experience, and we want to perpetuate the program. It’s where we want it. Now, we want to protect it.”

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