NBA players set to lead Brazil's Olympic team
By TALES AZZONI
SAO PAULO (AP) Brazil's men's basketball team will be led by NBA players Nene, Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao when it returns to the Olympics for the first time in 16 years.
The four were part of coach Ruben Magnano's 15-player list Thursday. Also included was point guard Larry Taylor, who recently became a Brazilian citizen.
Only 12 players will make it to London, but Taylor and the NBA players will likely be on the team because two players on the list are there to gain experience in practice and another has a knee injury and is not expected to recover in time.
Brazil's men last competed in the Olympics in 1996, reaching the quarterfinals in Atlanta.
There had been doubts whether Nene and Barbosa would be picked because they asked not to play in the pre-Olympic tournament. The request drew criticism from fans and other Brazilian players.
"I decided to give them another chance after personally talking to them," Magnano said. "I wouldn't call up a player if I didn't have any trust in him."
Nene moved from the Denver Nuggets to the Washington Wizards at the NBA's trade deadline. Barbosa is in the playoffs with the Indiana Pacers.
Splitter was also still in the playoffs with the San Antonio Spurs. Varejao missed the final part of the regular season with the Cleveland Cavaliers because of a wrist injury.
"This has been a longtime dream of mine," Varejao said. "I've played in a lot of competitions with Brazil, but playing in the Olympics is different. I'm very motivated. I think we have a group capable of fighting for a medal in London."
Taylor never made it to the NBA. He had been asked by Magnano to practice with Brazil before last year's Olympic qualifying tournament, but he couldn't stay on the team because the government indicated the naturalization process wouldn't be completed in time.
Also on the preliminary squad was Barcelona point guard Marcelinho Huertas. Local players Ricardo Fischer and Ronaldo Rodrigues were "invited" to participate in preparations. Rafael Hettsheimer, who plays in Spain, was included even though he faces knee surgery.
The players gather June 10 for a month of preparations in Sao Paulo and then will play exhibition games before the Olympics.
Brazil will open in London against Australia and then face host Britain. China and Spain, runner-up to the U.S. in the Beijing Games, are also in Group B, along with a qualifier to be determined in Venezuela in July.
The Brazilian basketball federation said Magnano, an Argentine who helped Brazil earn the Olympic spot in last year's qualifying tournament in Argentina, it extended his contract until the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
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Updated May 17, 2012