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Odom picked for U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team

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Lamar Odom grew up watching Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Chris Mullin win Olympic gold with the Dream Team, and now the Miami Heat forward from Jamaica will get his chance as the former Christ the King star was named to the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team last week.

“Very few people get an opportunity to try and win a gold medal, and I am looking forward to the challenge,” Odom said. “I am looking forward to joining my fellow Americans in Athens and competing against the best basketball players in the world.”

Odom joined Heat teammate Dwayne Wade, Denver Nugget Carmelo Anthony, Cleveland Cavalier Carlos Boozer and recently drafted Emeka Okafor (Charlotte Bobcats) as the final five players selected to the team.

They replace Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal and Mike Bibby, who declined for a variety of reasons.

“These five guys are the future of USA basketball,” said U.S. and Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown. “I’m disappointed so many of the guys who helped us qualify for the Olympics last summer in Puerto Rico won’t have the chance for an Olympic gold medal.”

A five-year NBA veteran, the 6-foot-10 forward started all 80 games he appeared in last year for the Heat, averaging 17.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He and league MVP Kevin Garnett were the only two players to average at least 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

“Lamar Odom characterizes the versatility of the 2004 Olympic team,” said USA senior national team committee chair Stu Jackson. “When called upon, he has the ability to play every position on the court. He has excellent passing skills, can run the floor very well and will provide additional scoring and rebounding help to our front line.”

Odom helped lead Miami to the Eastern Conference semifinals, but he may have played his last game in a Heat uniform. Odom is rumored to be part of a mega-trade that would send him, center Brian Grant and forward Caron Butler to the Los Angeles Lakers for center Shaquille O’Neal.

The deal could not officially be announced until Wednesday at the earliest, as per NBA rules.

If the trade is consummated, it would be Odom’s second tour of duty in Los Angeles. But last time he played for the Clippers for four years before landing in Miami last year.

Former Cardozo standout Rafer Alston has also left Miami after the most successful of his five-year NBA career. The South Jamaica native inked a six-year, $29 million deal with the Toronto Raptors last week.

Alston, a playground legend nicknamed “Skip to my Lou,” played for the Raptors in 2002-2003, averaging 7.8 points and 4.1 assists per game.

The 6-foot-2 point guard, who was a second-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1998, averaged 10.2 points and 4.5 assists while shooting 37.1 percent from three-point range for the Heat last year.

Alston, who was Miami’s sixth man last year, has a great chance to start at Toronto next year.

Alvin Williams has been hobbled with knee injuries and Jalen Rose is better-suited at small forward.

Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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