Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Rules prevent Carmelo Anthony from competing for Puerto Rico in international competition, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try and land him for Olympic qualifying.
“Carmelo is a future plan because right now we don’t do anything to get Carmelo,” Carlos Beltran, president of the Puerto Rican basketball Federation, said Wednesday in a phone interview.
“That is a decision of Carmelo. But everybody know that he have Puerto Rican roots. Maybe in the near future it’s a possibility.”
Anthony, whose father, Carmelo Sr., was Puerto Rican, was a member of Team USA when it won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics and a gold medal in Beijing in 2008.
International rules say that once a player has competed for one international team, he cannot change teams and play for another country.
“No – once you play for a national team at a FIBA event (or a major international event) you’re only able to play for that country unless the nation divides (like USSR and Yugoslavia did),” USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller said via email.
Beltran is well aware of the rule but hopes an exception might be made so that Anthony could play for Puerto Rico and new head coach Rick Pitino, who agreed to coach the team during the qualifying event next summer.
“That is a rule,” Beltran said. “But any rule have some exceptions. I don’t know if we could try sometime, when the moment arrives, to get an opinion of FIBA. But we have not done anything right now. I know the rule.”
Anthony’s status is up in the air not just in the international arena, but in NBA circles as well.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told the Fort-Worth Star Telegram there was no truth to a CBSSports.com report that Dallas had an interest in trading for Anthony.
“If [Ken Berger] is going to make things up, the reporter should at least be honest enough to say he is making things up,” Cuban said. “Not one grain of truth to anything he said.”
Anthony will also miss Wednesday’s game against San Antonio due to a death in his family.
“Our entire organization supports Carmelo during this difficult time for him and his family,” executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said. “It is heartbreaking news, particularly during the holiday season.”
As for the Puerto Rican team, Pitino will coach the national team in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship basketball tournament to be played in Mar del Plata, Argentina on Aug. 25-Sept. 8, 2011. Puerto Rico must finish among the top two teams to advance to the 2012 Olympics in London.
Despite a report that Pitino took the job in order to gain access to 2012 shooting guard Ricardo Ledo of South Kent (Conn.), who is considering Louisville, Kentucky and many other elite programs, Beltran said he didn’t think it was the case.
“The reality is I think from my opinion that that is not the reason that Rick Pitino took the basketball job,” he said. “I think that Rick Pitino took the opportunity to coach Puerto Rico because it’s a challenge for him. Every person wants to be challenged with a situation and Puerto Rico has to qualify for the Olympic games. I think that it’s a great opportunity for the coach of his ability to get his skill in this national team.”
A source close to the Puerto Rican team doubts whether Ledo, as talented as he is, would even make the senior national team.
The 2010 Puerto Rican roster included guards Carlos Arroyo of the Miami Heat and JJ Berea of the Mavericks, as well as professional players David Huertas, Filiberto Rivera and Guillermo Diaz.
Florida guard Mike Rosario and USC guard Jio Fontan — two former stars under Bob Hurley at St. Anthony — also have Puerto Rican ties and Beltran said “they have the ability” to potentially make the team.
“He’s not good enough to be on that team,” the source said of Ledo. “I think it would be very difficult to put him on that team.”
Beltran said it was possible Ledo could make the team — “If you have the ability, age is not a factor,” he said — but said there was no “guarantee” that he would.
Still, Puerto Rico could invite Ledo to train with the team and Todd Quarles, Ledo’s AAU coach, said Ledo had been “contacted” by Puerto Rican officials.
“We know that he’s one of the best future [guards] that Puerto Rico have as a player and we know about him,” Beltran said of Ledo.
Should Pitino end up coaching Ledo or other high school prospects during training, it could open up a can of worms with the NCAA.
“The NCAA could potentially have an issue with these current college coaches using these national teams as a mechanism to create a unique recruiting advantage,” the Puerto Rican team source said. “That’s the big question that the NCAA is going to have, period. It’s a real fine line.”
As for Beltran, he has one thing in common with the Nets and the Knicks.
He still holds out hope of landing Carmelo.
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.