Back in the day, the Olympics were supposed to be an event mainly for amateur athletes, but in basketball, the US always got screwed. Much like hockey in the winter Olympics before NHLers were allowed, when it came to basketball, the US squad would be made up of college players while the Soviet Union and other European squads always consisted of professionals. That all changed in 1989 when FIBA allowed NBA players to participate in the Olympics and in 1992, the first ever Dream Team was announced. That team cruised through the Olympics, embarrassing their opponents and having a lot of fun along the way, but it should have been kept to a one-off. It was amazing seeing Michael, Magic, Larry, Scottie, David Robinson, and Christian Laettner (what?!? yeah, he was on the team) playing together and doing so beautifully. Every time after that, the "Dream Team" idea was cheapened and in Athens, it was laughable, as the US went 5-3 in the preliminary rounds, even losing to Puerto Rico.
This year's team, announced yesterday, looks to be strong and should help re-establish the United States' basketball reputation. Kobe Bryant, the NBA MVP, will be playing in the Olympics for the first time alongside other NBA stars like Chris Paul, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Superman, Dwight Howard. The 12-man squad is rounded out with the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd, and Deron Williams. This squad is only outdone by the Atlanta team in '96 for returning Olympians (that side had 6 returnees), with 5 members of the team having played in previous Olympics (Anthony, Boozer, James, Kidd, Wade).
The US will begin training in Las Vegas in July. Their Olympics training will include 2 warmup matches in Shanghai against Russia and Australia on August 3rd and 5th. The real competition begins with a tough match that many people are excited about against hosts China on August 10, and continues with games against Angola (Aug. 12), Spain (Aug. 16), and two Qualifier teams that have yet to be determined (Aug. 14 and 18).