By Ira Winderman
Posted June 8 2004
LOS ANGELES -- Dwyane Wade is still waiting to exhale.
For now, the Heat guard continues to breathe in an intoxicating start to his NBA career.
Less than three weeks after completing an unlikely ride to the Eastern Conference semifinals, Wade on Monday confirmed that he has been selected for the team of NBA players that will represent the United States at summer's Athens Olympics.
"It's been a whirlwind for me," he said of a remarkable year that began last June with his low-profile selection in the draft behind more-heralded newcomers LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
Now Wade is going to Greece, as a teammate to James, selected ahead of Anthony.
"To represent your country as an Olympian, especially being so young, is exciting," said the 22-year-old, taken with the fifth pick last June.
The selection of Wade was part of the latest scramble by USA Basketball to rebuild a program that has lost much of its luster from its initial Dream Team roots. Wade's spot became available with Sacramento guard Mike Bibby becoming the latest to step aside.
Among those who have bypassed invitations have been Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen, Jermaine O'Neal, Vince Carter and Karl Malone.
While some have expressed concerns about security, others cite the toll already exacted by the six-month NBA season and ensuing playoffs.
Wade, who still must fill out the required paperwork to make his selection official, said he was not fearful of security but also said he was not fully aware of the grueling schedule that requires players to report to pre-Olympic camp July 26 in Jacksonville and remain with the team on a five-country tour that does not end until Aug. 28 in Athens. NBA camps open a month later.
The last time the Heat was represented in the Olympics, center Alonzo Mourning returned from the 2000 Sidney Games with a kidney illness that eventually ended his career with the team, and point guard Tim Hardaway was sidelined by the end of that season with a foot injury.
"I love playing basketball," Wade said. "To have the opportunity is a great honor. I hope once I talk to the Heat that they're not concerned."
Wade joins an Olympic roster team that has firm commitments from Spurs center Tim Duncan, 76ers guard Allen Iverson, Nets forward Richard Jefferson, Knicks guard Stephon Marbury, Pistons center Ben Wallace, Suns forwards Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire and the Cavaliers' James. Cavaliers power forward Carlos Boozer also has been invited, with an invitation possibly forthcoming for Anthony. Heat forward Lamar Odom also is receiving consideration.
Larry Brown, the Olympic coach who is at the NBA Finals guiding the Detroit Pistons, said he welcomes the youthful outlook provided by Wade.
"The more young kids with enthusiasm that are going to be our future, in my mind, the better off we can be," he said.
"Guys like Wade and Carmelo and LeBron and Stoudemire, you name them, all of these young kids coming into the league, and some of the second- and third-year guys, if they want to play, that's great."