Mar 292006

LAS VEGAS – The U.S. basketball squad aiming to bring back Olympic gold will make its training hub in Las Vegas through 2008, organizers announced Wednesday.

The western city made sense as a stable launching pad for the FIBA World Championship in Japan in August and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said.

Teams for both events will be chosen from the same pool of 23 NBA and college players, including Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Gonzaga University’s Adam Morrison.

“Just as we sought to have continuity and commitment from coaches and players … so was our commitment to having a home,” Colangelo said.

The Americans took home a disappointing bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens after winning gold in 2000 in Sydney.

The three-year commitment from the players, practice venue and coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke was meant to replace the revolving door mentality that has hurt previous national squads, Colangelo said.

The city also was a draw for NBA players, said Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, a nonprofit organization funded by hotel taxes.

“Do you want to be in a remote location or do you want to be somewhere exciting?” he said.

The team is expected to start practice in Las Vegas for five days starting July 19.

Twelve active players will be chosen, along with three alternates. They will return for another week of practice starting July 31 before an exhibition game against Puerto Rico on Aug. 3.

Las Vegas Events paid USA Basketball $750,000 for the rights to host the training camp for three years and offered to cover the players’ expenses.

In exchange, it will gain ticket sales from one exhibition game a year at the Thomas & Mack Center, plus the chance to sell tour packages to out-of-state visitors.

Las Vegas has been trying to attract an NBA team, but the league and the city are at loggerheads over the issue of sports betting.

The NBA All-Star game is to be held in Las Vegas in 2007 – but Commissioner David Stern insisted there be no betting lines on events.

No special arrangement was made to prevent betting on the exhibition game against Puerto Rico.

“I don’t view this as a lobbying effort at all,” Christenson said. “We’re working with the NBA as a special event city. Whether we go further than that … the two are not connected in any way.”

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