Timberwolves forwards Al Jefferson and Kevin Love were named to the USA Basketball team program on Wednesday. The two players talked about the honor and what they hope to gain from their experience during a press conference at Target Center before Wednesday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats.
“I just want to say it is an honor for me to be in this position to at least tryout for this team,” Jefferson said. “I saw what they did a couple of years ago and won the gold medal. I watched the Dream Team when they were with Jordan and Pippen in the 90's. I never thought I would be in this position just to tryout. I'm really excited about that and I hope both me and Kevin both tryout and do well and make the team.”
Jefferson and Love are among 27 NBA players named to the team. The USA roster includes 2008 Olympic gold medalists Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams. The team also includes a number of young stars, including Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay and Derrick Rose.
Players from the program will be selected after a tryout to compete in the World Championships in Turkey this summer and the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The Wolves are one of six teams that had more than one player named to the team by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“Kevin Love has made us take notice about his game,” Colangelo said. “He knows how to play, he can pass the ball, he knows how to use his frame. He just knows how to play, and he’s a great team kind of guy. Al Jefferson, he still isn’t back to being 100 percent [from knee surgery], but this is predicated on his instinctive ability to play around the basket. He’s gotten better and better with his post up moves. When you’re putting together a team you want to have different components and that’s why he has a legitimate shot. We just want to see him get totally healthy and he’ll play at an even higher level.”
Jefferson said he believes the experience will help his game even he doesn’t make the Olympic team.
“I didn’t have a chance to work on my game last summer; it was all about my knee,” Jefferson said. “This summer I’m really going to hit the court and try and get better as a player. Why not finish the summer off with those guys, trying to make the USA team.”
Love got a taste of the USA program when he took part in a minicamp in Las Vegas last summer.
“It was the best experience I had all summer,” he said. “If you’re able to play against those caliber of players and runs like that throughout the summer it’s just going to take your game to the next level.”
Said Wolves coach Kurt Rambis: “They’re going to be playing with and against some of the greatest basketball players in the game. They’re going to see how hard some of the elite players in this game work and how hard they practice so it’s going to be a very valuable learning experience for them. ... You think about that competitive environment. Nobody wants to be the weak link in that environment. You’re either stepping up and keeping up, or you’ll get pushed aside rather quickly.”