- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gilbert Arenas went to Asia hoping to help the United States claim gold at the world championship.

The Washington Wizards guard, however, strained his groin at practice in South Korea yesterday and will not compete in the tournament, which starts this week.

“We know Gilbert is really disappointed,” team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “He’s done a great job. It’s an unfortunate situation, but he is not going to be able to continue on. We’re concerned because he has had a history regarding groin pulls.

“This is a precautionary move, but it is important that he return home and get treatment.”

Arenas could not be reached for comment.

“It is unfortunate that Gilbert sustained this injury,” Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said. “He is so proud to be a member of Team USA, and he was excited for this opportunity. When he returns to Washington, our doctors will re-evaluate his condition. It is our understanding from Team USA officials that Gilbert’s injury is not serious.”

The U.S. team will play a final exhibition game today against South Korea before opening the preliminary round of the tournament against Puerto Rico in Sapporo, Japan, on Saturday.

Arenas was not considered a lock to make the final 12-man roster.

He scored nine points in the United States’ first exhibition game, a 114-69 rout of Puerto Rico, and started the second contest against China. But Arenas went 1-for-6 from the field in the 119-73 win and logged a team-low six minutes in each of the past two exhibition games. He averaged 3.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 11 minutes a game.

The only player with less playing time in the exhibition games is Bruce Bowen, a defensive specialist from the San Antonio Spurs who has not scored in 27 minutes.

However, Wizards forward Antawn Jamison is one of 13 players still on the U.S. roster. Jamison has averaged 10.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.5 minutes in the four U.S. victories. Should Jamison make the final U.S. roster, he would not be the only Wizards player competing in the championships; center Peter John Ramos will play for Puerto Rico and offseason addition Darius Songaila for Lithuania.

Arenas was selected for the national team after he finished fourth in the NBA with a career-high 29.3 points a game. He was named to both the All-NBA third team and the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the second consecutive year.

The U.S. team will also face China, Slovenia, Italy and Senegal in the preliminary round. The Americans have not won the tournament since 1994 and finished third in 1998 and a shocking sixth in 2002.

To reverse that trend, USA Basketball enlisted the help of Colangelo, the former Phoenix Suns owner, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who selected some of the NBA’s best players to serve as a core the United States can build around for these championships and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. That core includes LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat and Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets.

Krzyzewski, a former U.S. Army officer, took his team to Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul yesterday, where 25,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed. The players donned combat uniforms and took marching orders from Krzyzewski before thrilling the crowd with a variety of dunks and 3-point shooting.

“It added depth to our trip,” Krzyzewski said. “To be able to meet the servicemen and women and thank them for their service was a great feeling.”

cThe Associated Press contributed to this article.

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