The United States is world champion in basketball.
That may not seem to be a big deal until getting a reminder that until Sunday, the U.S. hadn’t won the FIBA World Championships since 1994, the first time NBA players were used for this event.
The U.S. won gold without the help of any players from the 2008 Beijing Olympic team and rolled past Lithuania and Turkey in the final two rounds without much drama.
Tn the championship contest, the U.S. beat host Turkey 81-64 on Sunday afternoon in Istanbul behind 28 points by Kevin Durant. Lamar Odom added 15 and Russell Westbrook had 13.
Bulls guard Derrick Rose finished with 8 points, 6 assists and 2 turnovers, hitting 4 of 11 shots from the field.
The biggest benefit from winning the gold is the U.S. gets an automatic berth in the 2012 London Olympics, which means no qualifying next summer when the NBA could be in a lockout.
The biggest question now is who wears the Red, White and Blue in London? It’s easy to imagine a scenario where Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh put down their pina coladas in Miami, pat members of this team on the head and say, “Thanks for making things easy on us.”
Sure, the ’08 players got the job done in Beijing. But a team featuring Wade, James, Bosh, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Joe Johnson and Chris Paul took bronze at the ’06 World Championships in Japan.
Durant is going to be on the 2012 team, no question. He probably took the first step toward becoming the 2011 NBA MVP with his dominant performance in Turkey.
But should Wade, James, Bosh, Howard, Paul and Kobe Bryant jump back into international competition and take spots away from Rose, Westbrook, Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Stephen Curry or Kevin Love? Even Clippers guard Eric Gordon was the team’s fourth-leading scorer. Odom might have been the second most valuable player on this squad.
Bryant will turn 34 in August, 2012, so it’s easy to see him retiring from Team USA, but most of the others figure to be candidates for the next Olympic team.
With marketing and TV ratings in mind, USA Basketball isn’t likely to turn away James, Wade, Bosh or Howard. But shouldn't the group that earned the automatic berth in the London Olympics be the one to compete? Some interesting choices lie ahead.