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Salad days again?

USA Basketball's recipe is complete

Mike Krzyzewski talked about how important it was to get the right mix of players for the US national team. He compared it to making the perfect salad with the proper amounts of lettuce, vegetables, and seasonings.

After making the analogy, Krzyzewski offered a confession: ``This shows I'm very hungry."

He is, indeed, but not necessarily for the culinary treats of Las Vegas, which is where the US team wrapped up its first week of training yesterday -- and where Coach K announced the 15-man roster that will reconvene in Vegas next Monday for four more days, capped by an exhibition against Puerto Rico Aug. 3. He is hungry for something down the road -- the gold medal, which will go to the winner of next month's world championships in Japan.

Toward that end, Krzyzewski and USA Basketball consigliere Jerry Colangelo announced yesterday that three of the 24 players selected will not make the trip to the Far East, which includes pre-tournament stops in Korea and China. They are Adam Morrison, Luke Ridnour, and Shawn Marion, hero of the bronze-medal winning game in Athens in 2004.

Ridnour and Morrison were bubble guys . Krzyzewski said Marion has a sore left knee and is due for an MRI today. ``It doesn't appear to be serious," Krzyzewski said, ``but it would preclude him from going." Marion, who had sat out a couple of practices, is one of five members of the 2004 team who is on this roster.

The 15 left standing are Carmelo Anthony, Gilbert Arenas, Shane Battier, Chris Bosh, Bruce Bowen, Elton Brand, Kirk Hinrich, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, Joe Johnson, Brad Miller, Chris Paul, Amare Stoudemire, and Dwyane Wade. The US must pare the roster to 12 by the time the championships begin Aug. 19.

Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce are among six players selected for the team who, for various reasons, were not available to play in Japan. The others are Chauncey Billups, JJ Redick, Lamar Odom, and Michael Redd. Billups addressed the team yesterday and said, ``Don't worry about points, rebounds, or minutes. Worry about one thing -- the US."

All 24 players remain in the national team pool and have made themselves available for the 2008 Olympics and, if need be, a 2007 zone qualifier for the Olympics. The latter would be needed if the US did not win the gold medal in Japan.

Krzyzewski and Colangelo made it clear during a conference call how happy they were with the first week of training sessions and, in particular, with the players' attitudes. ``There wasn't one single incident. Not one," Krzyzewski said.

Added Colangelo, ``This was one small step, but, so far, it has been terrific. We have a lot of healthy players ready to go."

After the Aug. 3 exhibition against Puerto Rico in Las Vegas, the US team will play exhibitions against China and Brazil in Guangzhou, China, Aug. 7-8. It then will participate in the World Basketball Challenge in Seoul Aug. 9-11 against Korea and Lithuania. Then it's on to Japan, where the first game is against Puerto Rico Aug. 19.

Also in the United States's group are China, Italy, Senegal, and Slovenia.

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