Dwight Howard wants to play in Rio
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- USA Basketball may not have a coach yet for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but there is a center who is volunteering his services.
Los Angeles Lakers big man Dwight Howard, who won Olympic gold with the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Games but had to miss last summer's London Games while recovering from back surgery, said he wants to be back on the team in 2016.
"No doubt," Howard said Thursday when asked if he wanted to play in Brazil.
Howard will be 30 years old when the next Olympics roll around. He expressed disappointment in not being able to go for back-to-back gold medals this summer, much like Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant was able to do, because of the back surgery he underwent in April.
"I was pissed off," Howard said. "I was mad I couldn't play in the playoffs. I was mad I couldn't play in the Olympics. I was pissed. I was looking forward to going to London. I was looking forward to making a big run in the playoffs last season, so I wasn't too happy about the fact that I had to have surgery and miss a lot of basketball."
Howard's trade to the Lakers was finalized right before the U.S. played Pau Gasol and Spain in the gold-medal game.
Howard wasn't the only American big man to bow out of the Olympics because of injury. Blake Griffin (torn meniscus), Chris Bosh (abdomen) and LaMarcus Aldridge (torn meniscus) all were unable to compete while Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom both failed to become finalists for the team.
The U.S. team that competed in London had just one true center on the roster in Tyson Chandler. Kevin Love was relied upon for his inside play, with LeBron James sometimes shifting to center. Anthony Davis, a 6-foot-10 rookie, was on the team but barely played.
Howard said he has maintained a relationship with USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.
"He's cool with me," Howard said. "He's always been someone that I've thought highly of and he's always supported me."
Howard said he received an invitation from Colangelo to play on the 2012 team prior to his back injury.
"He called me and asked me about joining the team in London," Howard said. "We were looking forward to it. He was one of the first people that contacted me and asked me if I wanted to play. I was very excited about it. I wanted to play. He said, 'OK.'"
Colangelo will be tasked with not only filling out a roster for Rio de Janeiro, but finding a new coach.
Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN Radio this week that he will not assume his coaching duties with Team USA when his season at Duke ends.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni was an assistant on Krzyzewski's staff, along with Nate McMillan and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim.
"He's had a good run and it's a stressful job," D'Antoni said. "He's already got one (stressful job at Duke), so sometimes it's tough."
D'Antoni said he does not know if he'll continue to serve on the coaching staff without Krzyzewski around.
"We'll see," D'Antoni said. "That's not on my radar right now."
Howard looked back fondly at his time with Krzyzewski.
"I had a lot of fun with the team, with the guys," Howard said. "Practices were great. We worked extremely hard. (Krzyzewski) did a good job of motivating us before every game and making sure that we were ready to go out there and play for our country.
"So, it's sad that (London) is going to be his last run, but he had a really good run and we appreciate everything he did for our team."
Does Howard know who could be coaching him in Rio?
"My only concern right now is winning a championship with the Lakers and how we can get better," Howard said. "I can't control what happens in the Olympics."