His Lakers future uncertain, Kobe takes aim at Team USA success

LAS VEGAS -- A seriously slimmed-down Kobe Bryant sat at a steakhouse table at the Wynn resort here with Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski and head honcho Jerry Colangelo on Tuesday night and made one simple, strategic request.

"Coach, I'm ready," Bryant declared, according to Colangelo. "And I want the best player on the other team every single night."

A new face has been added to Team USA, and after going through false starts in 2003, 2004 and 2006 when, respectively, a knee injury, a rape accusation and then a shoulder injury kept him off the team, Bryant is finally going to don a USA senior men's team jersey for the very first time.

It'll happen Friday afternoon on the campus of UNLV, where 17 national team members will assemble for two days of practice and then an intrasquad scrimmage before the team splits up for three weeks and then reassembles to prepare for the Tournament of the Americas, in which two berths in the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be at stake.