- The Washington Times - Friday, February 24, 2006

Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison has been contacted about playing for the United States in the FIBA World Championship this summer in Japan, three sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed yesterday.

USA Basketball, which is responsible for putting the team together, contacted Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas in December. Both players already have spoken with Phoenix Suns chairman and CEO Jerry Colangelo, managing director of the USA Basketball Senior Men’s National Team.

Jamison is averaging 19.4 points and 9.8 rebounds a game in his second season with Washington, the best statistical season of his eight-year career. He made his only All-Star appearance last season, when he averaged 19.6 points and 7.6 rebounds.

He has scored at least 20 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds in 21 games this season, fourth-best in the league and tops in the Eastern Conference. With 30 games left in the regular season, Jamison already has made a career-high 79 3-point field goals.

Players receiving invitations will be formerly announced in early March. Two players with whom USA Basketball has talked — Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James of Cleveland — already have committed to playing.

The plan is to gather a pool of approximately 25 players this summer, then whittle it to 12 to participate in the 2006 FIBA World Championship, held Aug.19 through Sept.3 in Japan. Those 12 players are not guaranteed spots on the 2008 Olympic roster.

Letters went out last week to prospective players outlining a three-year commitment that will take the team through the 2008 Games. This will include participation in training camps every summer through 2008, beginning this summer.

The lengthy process will ensure players who ultimately represent the United States in Beijing will have a great deal of familiarity with their teammates, USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller said. The U.S. settled from the bronze medal at the Athens Games in 2004.

“The vision is to have a group of players, a pool, that will get more and more familiar with each other,” Miller said yesterday.

Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld was named to the nine-member USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team Program Advisory Panel last May. He is joined on that panel by, among others: Jerry West, president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies; Rod Thorn, president of the New Jersey Nets; Bryan Colangelo, president and general manager of the Phoenix Suns; and Russ Granik, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the NBA.

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