Saturday, July 25, 2009
Team USA: A Numbers Game
Jersey numbers tend to be rather important to basketball players. For many guys, their number is a big part of their legacy. You always hear stories about players paying exorbitant sums of money to get their numbers from other players, usually after a trade. Some guys wear the same numbers from park and rec ball all the way through their NBA careers, so it's easy to see how one could become attached to a couple of digits.
But you have to check pride and sentimentality at the door when you're trying win one of the few spots available on Team USA. Might not be such an easy thing to do. After all, none of the guys here at the mini-camp have ever really had to "earn" a roster spot. Not that anything is given, but the talent level is such that no one who has taken the floor at Valley High School over the last two days has had to worry about making a squad. Not the case for Team USA. These guys are the best, but Team USA is the best of the best. The margin for error is slim.
Which brings us back to the jerseys. On most teams, guys like Devin Harris, Josh Smith and Andre Iguodala would get first pick of jersey numbers, but here in Las Vegas, no one is extended that courtesy. You get the number they give you. Don't like it? Tough.
Which is how Greg Oden ended up wearing No. 47, rather than the No. 52 he wears in the NBA.
"It's the first jersey they pulled out of the bag," said Oden, who didn't seem at all worried about the change of number.
Not that No. 52 wasn't available. It was, but it was given to Kevin Durant, who's career will be forever linked to Oden's.
Did KD grab GO's number on purpose? Maybe a little payback for the player picked one spot before him?
"Naw, I didn’t man." said Durant with a chuckle. "It’s just the number they gave us. I wasn’t even thinking about that. This is the first time I thought about it."
For Oden and Durant, the number on their backs isn't all that important, it' a chance to wear USA across their chests that matters.