ROMA (EuroBasket 2013) - There may still be four months to go to the start of the Italian national team's training camp for EuroBasket, but already head coach Simone Pianigiani has written the first names into his list of available players.
Alongside Italian Basketball Federation (FIP) President Giovanni Petrucci, Pianigiani travelled to the USA and was in attendance for Monday's NBA game between the Chicago Bulls and the Denver Nuggets before meeting with national team stars Marco Belinelli and Danilo Gallinari.
After leading Italy to a perfect 8-0 record in last summer's EuroBasket Qualifying Round, Gallinari declared himself available for the showcase event in Slovenia.
"It was great to meet with coach Pianigiani and President Petrucci. I said I will be available, definitely," said the Nuggets forward.
Belinelli, who has two EuroBasket appearances to his name (2007 and 2011), is in a different situation as he becomes a free agent at the end of June after one season with the Bulls.
"I was pleased to talk with coach Pianigiani and President Petrucci. By coming to Chicago, they showed Danilo and me the support of Italian basketball. I would love to play at EuroBasket, but it's too early for me to answer," he said.
"This is a crucial moment of the season with the Bulls. We are pushing hard, looking for a good playoff spot, and this is my current focus."
Andrea Bargnani was also in contact with the Italian Federation, and the national team's athletic trainer Francesco Cuzzolin - who has worked with the Toronto Raptors - will follow the forward's recovery after his season-ending injury to his right elbow.
"I don't consider the summer with Italy as being something optional. Getting called up by the national team is a big source of pride for every true athlete," said Bargnani.
If he is healthy, the 27-year-old will play at EuroBasket, where Italy will be in Group D, with Russia, Turkey, Greece, Sweden and Finland.
"Andrea declared himself available. Adding talent would be great for us, but we need to remember that our system begins with our players' defensive effort and unselfish attitude,” said coach Pianigiani.
The Azzurri will try to forget about the 2011 campaign, when they didn't get past the first round.
Italy could have a fourth player in the NBA next season, as
looks ready to explore his chances of playing in the USA.
After starring last summer during the EuroBasket Qualifying Round, the Acea Roma forward is a strong candidate for the Serie A's MVP title.
"A chance to play in the NBA would be the ultimate challenge for me," he said.
Datome is also eager to play for his country this summer, on a team that he believes will look and be more competitive than last summer.
While the status of both Bargnani and Belinelli remain to be confirmed, Italy will be boosted by the addition of Travis Diener.
The American point guard - who is leading the Serie A standings with Banco Sardegna Sassari - is expected to receive his Italian passport soon and then declare himself available for EuroBasket.
"These players can provide much quality and confidence," said Datome.
"They can allow us to step up, but we still need to play as a team, just like last summer.
"We still have a long way to go, our first round group will be very tough, but we have a dream.
"We would love to get Italy to the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2014."