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The Matrix Relegated

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No surprises on the Team USA roster of 15, except perhaps that Shawn Marion is injured. In his place, assumedly, previously gimpy Amare Stoudemire takes his place.

Last week, I laid out my depth chart. After more thought and hearing some comments from Las Vegas, here's my updated depth chart, with some changes for Brad Miller's status:

PG: Chris Paul/Gilbert Arenas/Kirk Hinrich
SG: Dwyane Wade/Joe Johnson
SF: LeBron James/Bruce Bowen
PF: Carmelo Anthony/Chris Bosh/Dwight Howard
C:  Elton Brand/Brad Miller

I added Joe Johnson and Bruce Bowen, while taking out Shawn Marion and Shane Battier. Honestly, I'd take Battier over Bowen. Shane is younger, longer, and probably a more dependable shooter. I understand the whole lockdown perimeter defender thing. But Bowen is slipping. It was evident all season and glared in the postseason. Battier or perhaps Josh Howard is a better option for that role. Ron Artest, actually, is the perfect player for this role. Except for his tendency to shoot a lot. And to, um, "be crazy."

I think Stoudemire is a ploy at this point - Marion gave the braintrust an easy out with his injury, and everyone knew Luke Ridnour and Adam Morrison were, along with injured J.J. Redick, the absolute fringe of the roster.

For Jerry Colangelo, keeping Stoudemire on allows his NBA team's best player the best practice competition he's going to find anywhere in the world. I mean, you're coming off a major surgery and trying to get back into game condition - who better to face off against every day in practice than Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, and Elton Brand? Much more fulfilling than Marc Iavaroni and Kurt Thomas.

But I'm assuming Mike Krzyzewski and his staff have the final word on the final rosters. (I'm assuming. It could be a braintrust thing.) So Colangelo probably couldn't wave his hand and get an obviously recovering but obviously sub-elite Amare onto the final 15. (Again, assuming.)

But Colangelo could do something else: He could ask his other Phoenix Olympian - Shawn Marion - to make room for Amare by staying home with "an injury." How's he sell it to Matrix? Well, Amare's continued fortification is a boost to the Suns' title hopes, it reduces the risk of a Marion injury by reducing the actual competition he'll be participating in, Marion probably wasn't starting any games or playing crunch-time minutes anyways, and the fact that isn't the Olympics yet - that Stoudemire and Marion will both likely be on the 2008 team.

This - Marion sitting, Amare playing until the team goes down to 12, then getting cut with Antawn Jamison and one of Battier and Bowen - is a dream scenario for Colangelo. So while it's pure speculation, I can't help but wondering if this chain of events isn't some sort of trickery by the Suns.

If it is, there's only one way to pay them back: Brad Miller. Amare's knee. Crowbar.

(For actual and factual Team USA analysis, check out True Hoop's mondo post from this morning.)