- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The United States is down to just two centers, and one of them better pick it up if he wants to make it to Turkey.

USA Basketball trimmed its roster of candidates for the world championships Wednesday to 15, a guard-heavy group that features Brook Lopez and Tyson Chandler as its only centers.

Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, O.J. Mayo and Gerald Wallace were cut _ and Lopez might have joined them if not for his 7-foot frame on a team that badly needs height.

The New Jersey Nets center struggled last week during training in Las Vegas as he recovers from mono, an illness that team leadership wasn’t aware of before camp.

“Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he knows he has an awful lot to show in New York to be under consideration to make this team, but wanted very much to have that shot and opportunity and we’re willing to do that for him,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said during a conference call.

Kevin Durant leads three Oklahoma City players on the list that included the Clippers’ Eric Gordon, who was thought to be on the bubble, plus talented point guards such as Chauncey Billups, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder’s Jeff Green will join Durant and Westbrook in New York when the team reconvenes Aug. 9. The roster has to be reduced to 12 before the world championships begin on Aug. 28 in Turkey.

The remainder of the finalists are: Lamar Odom, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Danny Granger and Kevin Love.

Much like the 2008 Olympic team, the roster is deep in athleticism but short on size.

“We’re not just going to produce big guys _ we don’t have big guys, I mean a lot of them,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We have a lot of perimeter guys and it’s our responsibility to … I mean we’re not going to pick someone up on a trade or anything like that. These are our guys and we feel good about them.”

The Americans lost one potential center when Boston’s Kendrick Perkins was hurt in Game 6 of the NBA finals, then lost three more big guys when All-Stars Amare Stoudemire and David Lee, plus Robin Lopez of Phoenix, were all forced to withdraw last week.

That helped Brook Lopez _ Robin’s twin brother _ stick when his performance may not have warranted it. He played only 13 minutes during an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday, scoring two points.

“We do want to see how Brook Lopez looks after two weeks of getting himself in shape,” Colangelo said. “He knows he struggled, he’s disappointed in his performance, but he wants this opportunity and when somebody has that kind of an attitude you’re going to give him a little bit of rope.”

Evans missed the last few days of practice in Las Vegas, including the scrimmage, with an ankle injury. Wallace had only four points and no rebounds in 12 1/2 minutes, while Gordon may have clinched his ticket to New York by making four 3-pointers and scoring 16 points.

Mayo was dropped despite a strong performance in the game, scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Washington center JaVale McGee, who participated in the Las Vegas camp but was not on the roster, also won’t be coming to New York.

USA Basketball hoped to have at least some of the players from the team that won the gold medal in Beijing, but all declined to return this summer. Dwight Howard was the only true center on that team, but the Americans were loaded with superstars who overcame that.

The team is scheduled to train in New York from Aug. 10-16, playing an exhibition game against France on Aug. 15 at Madison Square Garden. The Americans also will play potentially tough exhibition games in Europe against Spain, Greece and Lithuania before arriving in Istanbul.

Colangelo said certain players have already been warned they are on the bubble and need to play well in New York. Though many spots may already be set, the final decision may not be made until Europe, as the team could head overseas with more than 12 players.

“I think it’s fair to say that the staff and myself could probably come up with a solid eight or nine and that’s really been the case all week,” Colangelo said. “Maybe names have changed a little bit, but we knew it would be a close call and that’s why New York is so important to us before we make our final decisions and also the probability, possibility that we’ll take more than 12 with us.”