Malone, Bibby namedto Team USA

April 14, 2003 at 3:42 PM
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COLORADO SPRINGS, April 14 (UPI) -- Former Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen is recovering from a recent fall at a hockey game.

Power forward Karl Malone of Utah and point guard Mike Bibby of Sacramento Monday were the latest to receive their invitations to the Olympic basketball team.

The two became fifth and sixth members of the 2003 USA National Team that will participate in the 2004 Olympics. The player selections were made by the Senior National Team Committee of USA Basketball.

"I don't think you can have a better representative than Karl for our USA team," said USA Coach Larry Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers. "He stands for everything that's important about our sport. He's been a star for a long time, and a great example for young players. Mike has had a great deal to do with the success of Sacramento, and everybody is aware of how good that team is. He's a young, up and coming star. He's team conscious and should fit in extremely well."

Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, Jason Kidd, and Ray Allen already had been chosen for the team, which must qualify for the 2004 Olympics by finishing among the top three in the Tournament of the Americas in August in Puerto Rico.

"After naming the first six core players, we have a great mix of youth and experience and the foundation for one of the best teams that USA Basketball has ever assembled," said Senior Committee Chairman Stu Jackson.

It was Jackson's slip of the tongue during a teleconference last Thursday that touched off a cascade of curiosity around 76ers guard Allen Iverson. The NBA's Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations inadvertently blurted out, "By the way, AI made it."

Jackson and NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik steadfastly denied that a decision had been made either way on Iverson, the three-time NBA scoring champion, who made it clear that he wants to be selected.

With Brown as his coach in Philadelphia, it would be surprising if Iverson is not selected.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Garnett of the

Minnesota Timberwolves are also expected to receive invitations.

Malone, 39, voted as one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, is in his 18th season with the Jazz, and boasts career averages of 25.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Despite his age, the two-time MVP is averaging 20.7 points and 7.8 rebounds this season.

"Being the grandpa of the group, I'm kind of honored," Malone said. "I'll be 41 playing for the gold medal, so I'm excited about it. If somebody had told me I had the opportunity to play on one Olympic team, let alone three, I would have told them years ago they were lying."

Malone owns a pair of Olympic gold medals, having been part of the USA "Dream Teams" in 1992 and '96. David Robinson of San Antonio is the only American player to participate on three Olympic teams.

Bibby, who turns 25 in May, is in his fifth NBA season. He raised his stature in last year's playoffs, leading the Kings to the Western Conference finals. In Sacramento's 16 playoff games, Bibby averaged 20.3 points and 5.0 assists.

After missing the first 27 games this season following foot surgery, Bibby is averaging 15.9 points and 5.2 assists.

"I'm really honored to represent my country and play with some of the top players in the world," Bibby said.

Kidd and Bibby will play at point guard, with Ray Allen at shooting guard, and possibly Iverson and Bryant. The 6-9 McGrady can also play the backcourt, but likely will be moved to small forward since the team would not have a need for more than five guards.

The 12-member roster will be completed later in the spring with three more core players and three role players.

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