Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul finalists for Olympic team
But in a mild surprise, Clippers power forward Blake Griffin was added as a finalist, jumping onto a short list of players trying to represent Team USA in London later this year. He had not been included in Team USA's plans until earlier this month, and his addition symbolizes his growing acclaim as a player and personality. At age 22, he is the youngest finalist.
Clippers guards Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups were also selected as finalists, as was former Lakers forward Lamar Odom, now with the Dallas Mavericks.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum was not selected, a not-so-stunning development. He told The Times recently he did not want to play for Team USA this summer, choosing instead to rest.
Lakers power forward Pau Gasol will represent the Spanish national team, which lost to the U.S. in the gold-medal game of the 2008 Olympics.
Bryant made two trips to Germany last summer to have non-invasive but innovative procedures on an ailing knee and ankle. He also has a torn ligament in his right wrist that could require surgery at some point.
Team USA officials are leaving Bryant's participation in the Olympics up to him, but they think he will represent the U.S.
"That'll be his choice but it'll have to be something very, very serious because he has a [limited] number of years still left," Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a conference call Monday with reporters. "I know he would want another Olympic championship. He's about championships and we need him...because of that mentality."
Other finalists were former Clippers guard Eric Gordon, former UCLA players Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook, as well as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Dwight Howard, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams.
The U.S. roster will be pared down to a final tally of 12 players by June 18.
Left photo: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images
Right photo: Kobe Bryant. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Associated Press