LAS VEGAS - Before returning to Sacramento on Sunday night, Geoff Petrie said he was delighted Kevin Martin had accepted an invitation to join the Select Team that is training with the U.S. Olympic squad for the next few days, for obvious reasons. "I think he's starting to be recognized as an All-Star caliber type player, and it's an honor for him," said the Kings basketball president, "and to be able to compete against the best players in the league, and with the best players, it can only be good for him."
(Yes, Petrie has a soft spot for his young star, who was drafted with the No. 26 pick in 2004 but has emerged as one of the league's most efficient and prolific scorers.)
Martin, by the way, said he has gained 10 pounds of muscle, mostly in his upper arms. He says he weighs 190 pounds. "I lost weight during the season," he added. "I finished the year at 180, but you can't believe how much better it feels when you're out there with this added strength."
What exactly is a Select Team?
Eventually, USAB officials need to come up with a better name, but in the interim, the Select Team consists of NBA players who were not named to the Olympic team, but are willing to play the role of "scrubs" and practice against their brethren headed overseas. The roster usually consists of younger NBA players and remains fluid everyone officially convenes. Hence, the late addition of Portland Trail Blazer rookie Jerryd Bayless. This is also the group of players who, when not trying to score against Kobe Bryant and his teammates, basically audition for future USA squads.
Anyway, while catching the final minute of Monday's practice session and speaking privately with Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski, I was reminded of the original 1992 Dream Team's scrimmages in La Jolla, and how Kings rookie (and Select Team member) Bobby Hurley left Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, among others, marveling at his playmaking abilities and predicting a terrific NBA future. Because of the auto accident that almost claimed Hurley's life, we never got a chance to see whether the Hall of Famers were right.
More musings from Valley High school
* Kevin Love, another late addition to the scrubs, sat out practice with a sore Achilles. He is coming off an excellent NBA Summer League showing, though he sat out the last game with the injury.
* From what I am hearing, rookie O.J. Mayo was the most impressive of the non-Olympians, and surprise, surprise, Kobe Bryant distinguished himself among the Beijing-bound players.
* Team USA (and all-around great guy) Nate McMillan, also known as the former heart, soul and face of the Sonics franchise, never moved his family to Portland when he became Blazers head coach. Like Seattle native Spencer Hawes, McMillan is really bummed about the organization's relocation to Oklahoma City. "I am going to miss those road trips to Seattle to see my family," said McMillan. "It will be strange when winter comes and there's no basketball up there."
* USAB patriarch Jerry Colangelo, the former Phoenix Suns owner/executive, spent several minutes chatting with me about his famous ex-point guard - Sacramento mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson. KJ's old boss asked the date of the runoff, and said he followed the primary results closely. He also said he was among the NBA types contributing to KJ's campaign.
* Martin is a quick study, but he jokingly acknowledged that he could use a refresher course on his Olympic history. He started talking about the '92 squad that was showcased by Bird, Magic, Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley, and slipped Reggie Miller's name in there. "Reggie wasn't on that team?" Martin replied, when told that the former Pacers star was on the '96 squad. "Oh, I thought he was." Barely missing a beat, he noted, "But they won all their games by 30 points or more, and they went undefeated, so they were still a Dream Team."