Former ASU men’s basketball player James Harden fell just short of winning his first NBA title with the Oklahoma City Thunder last month, but he is receiving a chance at another championship in the London Olympics.
Harden, who won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award this season, became one of 12 players selected to the USA Basketball Men’s National Team, chairman Jerry Colangelo announced Saturday.
The 2009 Pac-10 Player of the Year joins Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the roster, while Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Deron Williams, Blake Griffin and Andre Iguodala round out the rest of the team.
Harden, Iguodala and Griffin had to beat out Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis during the first three days of camp to secure USA’s three open spots.
The announcement came as a surprise to Harden, as he was not expecting to be part of the final roster.
“It was definitely a last-second decision,” Harden said. “I didn’t know and I was clueless. Coach (Mike Krzyzewski) and Mr. Colangelo brought us into a room, basically to tell us we made it. At that point, it was a sigh of relief.”
Although he was a late entrant to the roster of finalists, injuries to the program’s recurring players helped Harden’s chances of making the national team. Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge and Lamar Odom all withdrew prior to the team’s training camp.
Although coach Mike Krzyzewski has not yet defined his role, Harden’s length and versatility will likely help the Americans, as USA is competing with a much smaller frontcourt than in previous Olympic games with Howard and Bosh out. He has elected to wear the No. 12 for the team.
USA will continue its training camp and four-game exhibition tour in Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., England and Spain until the London Olympics begin on July 29.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org