- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 11, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Lamar Odom is an old man, at least when it comes to this U.S. basketball team.

He was reminded of that right from the first practice in New York, when he was so winded that he struggled to reach the rim shooting free throws.

While praising his leadership, coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo acknowledge Odom isn’t ready to play.

Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers, are sitting out the world championships after three straight trips to the NBA finals.

So why was Odom running around in a college gym Wednesday instead of getting the rest he needs?

“Because I was asked,” he said, “and it’s a huge compliment.”

“The first thing I was able to tell Coach K and Mr. Colangelo (was) where my body was at and they understood. And they wanted something else from me and that was leadership. It takes a certain type of confidence, cockiness, humbleness, humility to be able to win games, championships. For them to have the faith in me that I have that, it was just something I couldn’t say no to.”

There’s more to it, though. Odom suited up for the Americans during their disappointing performance in the 2004 Olympics and has wanted another chance to wear a USA uniform ever since, but was stopped by everything from tragedy to injury.

“He had a whole series of things that prevented him from playing. He always wanted to play, he was always committed to play,” Colangelo said. “There wasn’t a big sell here to be done with Lamar Odom. He wanted to play, he has wanted to play. He wasn’t able to.”

Odom finally has the opportunity, and even now at age 30, envisions himself being in London in 2012 _ hopefully with a better result than the bronze medal from Athens.

“Opening ceremony of the Olympics is something I would love for my kids to be able to see,” Odom said during an interview at Niketown. “That opportunity, you don’t come across something like that, an opportunity I would say yes to every time.”

He was selected to the original national team of players in 2006, but pulled out before training camp after the death of his 6 1/2-month-old son while sleeping in his crib. Odom couldn’t participate the following year after having surgery on his left shoulder.

But Colangelo went back to him for this pool, making Odom the only player from the original group to be invited back without ever appearing for the team from 2006-08.

“He’s a great big. It will be huge for us,” Denver point guard Chauncey Billups said. “He can talk on defense, pass the ball. His experience will be valuable for this team.”

Billups, who will be 34 next month, is the only player older than Odom on a roster with five players that are 21. Besides being much younger, most of his teammates had much longer breaks than Odom, whose season didn’t end until June 18.

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