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NBA Stars Locked Out Of Team USA

No Grant Hill, Gary Payton or Tim Duncan. Even Dominique Wilkins said thanks, but no thanks. With the NBA lockout in full force, the U.S. squad for the world championships has gone from Dream Team to Team Who?

USA Basketball released a list Tuesday of the 30 players invited to this week's training camp for the world championships. The biggest names? Some college kids and a guy who helped make long, baggy shorts and black sneakers cool as part of Michigan's Fab Five.

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"We've been disappointed all the way along the line. But the players we have now are players who wanted to come," said Craig Miller, spokesman for USA Basketball. "These guys are players that never thought they'd get this opportunity. It's their opportunity to make their mark and be part of history."

Warren Brown, USA Basketball's executive director, was out of the country and unavailable for comment Tuesday. Coach Rudy Tomjanovich was in meetings, and most players were traveling to Chicago.

Among those competing for a spot on the 12-man world championship roster are Duke star Trajan Langdon, a finalist for the player of the year award, and Big East player of the year Richard Hamilton, who flirted with turning pro before deciding to return to Connecticut for his junior season.

Mateen Cleaves, the Big Ten's player of the year, also made the list. So did former Fab Fiver Jimmy King, the CBA's 1998 MVP.

There are four current college players on the list, two more who just exhausted their eligibility and 12 current CBA players, nine who played overseas and three who played both overseas and in the CBA.

"We feel confident that out of this group we can and will field a very competitive team, a team that will go out and try to win the world championship," Tomjanovich said.

The roster will be pared to 12 by the time training camp ends next Tuesday at the Moody Bible Institute. The 1998 FIBA World Championships start July 29 in Athens, Greece.

USA Basketball initially chose 12 NBA players for its latest version of the Dream Team. But with an NBA lockout looming July 1, the NBA players threatned to boycott the world championships.

USA Basketball moved first, dumping the NBA stars on June 16 and announcing it would field a team of current college players, CBA players and Americans playing overseas.

"They've made their statement. USA Basketball needs to go on and field a team," Miller said of the NBA stars. "We've been able to select a team that hopefully will jel and be competitive and bring home the gold medal."

USA basketball had hoped to lure former NBA stars like Wilkins and Byron Scott. But both turned down the invitations, with Wilkins saying he didn't want to betray former teammates or their stance in labor negotiations with the NBA.

"It was flattering at first when I found out I was being considered, but if I did it, I would look at myself as betraying the NBA players," Wilkins said, according to the Boston Globe. "And I support what they are trying to do. The more I thought about it, the more I said to myself, 'You can't do that!' I just couldn't."

There were only a few players who shared Wilkins' views and decided not to participate, Miller said. And he doesn't expect any defections to the NBA cause once training camp begins Wednesday.

"They know where we're at. They've expressed excitement (at being here)," Miller said.

Besides a lack of star drawing power -- which already has sparked concern from the Greek Basketball Federation -- playing a bunch of little-knowns is a risky move for the United States. The world championships help determine what 12 teams go to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia and only the world champion and the host country qualify automatically.

Other countries are still likely to use NBA players. Among those scheduled to play are Vlade Divac of Yugoslavia, Steve Nash and Rick Fox of Canada, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas of Lithuania.

The United States, with a team of NBA players, won the 1994 world championships in Toronto. The United States went on to win the gold medal two years later in the Atlanta Olympics.

"Before, everyone was conceding the gold medal to the U.S. and everyone else was playing for silver and bronze," Miller said. "Now, you have a competition where the best team won't be known until the last game is played."

The 12 NBA players on the U.S. team before the lockout were: Tim Duncan (San Antonio), Tim Hardaway (Miami), Vin Baker and Gary Payton (Seattle), Terrell Brandon (Milwaukee), Kevin Garnett and Tom Gugliotta (Minnesota), Grant Hill (Detroit), Allan Houston (New York), Christian Laettner (Atlanta), Glen Rice (Charlotte) and Chris Webber (Sacramento).

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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