NBA Rumor: USA Basketball

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That all changed in 2006. A couple of days before Bryant would score 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, Colangelo invited him to his office in Phoenix. The Lakers were in town to face the Suns, but Colangelo had something else on his mind: He wanted Bryant to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympics. “I knew in advance that he really wanted to be a part of U.S.A. Basketball,” said Colangelo, who had taken over as managing director of the men’s national team after its disastrous third-place finish at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens — a far cry from the standard of excellence set by Michael Jordan and the so-called Dream Team that won gold in 1992. “It was on his list of things that he wanted to accomplish, because he had never played for U.S.A. Basketball. No junior teams or anything like that. So it was important to him, and his commitment was huge.”

“I think Kobe challenged everybody,” said Jim Boeheim, one of the team’s assistants and the head coach of men’s basketball at Syracuse. “He was like, ‘I’m going to defend the toughest guy on every team, I’m going to push everyone, so just come along with me.’ And he did that from Day 1.” For Colangelo, it was a window into greatness. The foundation for all of Bryant’s feats — the 81-point game, the scoring titles, the series-clinching jump shots, the three championships he had already won with the Lakers — was his work ethic and desire. The spectacular was rooted in the mundane, in the monotony of hard labor.

At the Olympics, Bryant helped lead the way in the gold-medal final against Spain — and did it with flair. With just over three minutes remaining in a tight game, Bryant effectively sealed the win with a 4-point play. He raised an index finger to his lips to silence the Spanish fans in the crowd. A few minutes later, as the Americans celebrated on the court, Colangelo embraced the player he had once dreamed of drafting. The wait, in some ways, was worth it. “How often does someone have an objective, a goal, and have it perfectly executed?” Colangelo asked. “It was just so special.”

ESPN’s recently aired documentary series “The Last Dance,” chronicling Michael Jordan’s final championship season with the Chicago Bulls, rekindled interest in Jordan’s long-running feud with Isiah Thomas, including how the Pistons’ star was left off the 1992 Dream Team that won Olympic gold in Barcelona. Author Jack McCallum addressed the controversy in the most recent episode of his “The Dream Team Tapes” podcast series. McCallum said Jordan brought up the issue of Thomas himself in a 2011 interview. “When they called me and asked me to play — Rod Thorn called me. I said ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ He assured me. He said, ‘Chuck doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team,’” Jordan said on the recording that McCallum played during the podcast.

USA Basketball announced the preliminary roster for the 2020 Olympics which consists of 44 names. The list is as follows: Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat); LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs); Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards); Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns); Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers); Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics); Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat); Mike Conley (Utah Jazz); Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers); DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs); Andre Drummond (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets); Paul George (L.A. Clippers); Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors); James Harden (Houston Rockets); Montrezl Harrell (L.A. Clippers); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers); Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics); Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers); Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans); Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets); LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); (cont.).

Kawhi Leonard (L.A. Clippers); Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); JaVale McGee (Los Angeles Lakers); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers); Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets); Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

USA Basketball released a preliminary roster on Monday of 44 names to be considered for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, and while LeBron James and Steph Curry are back in the fold for the national team, the list had some glaring omissions. Notably, players like Trae Young, Zach LaVine, Carmelo Anthony, Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and John Collins were left off the list entirely while Kyle Kuzma, Dwight Howard, Marcus Smart and Derrick White were among the 44 players to receive camp invitations.

Those fans remember Barnes on their TVs in the Finals, too. “Just from what I’ve seen from our experience so far, trying to help guys understand what it means to play on an international stage and what we’re going to have to go through to win it,” Barnes said, when asked how his past championships can help here. “Anytime you have championship experience, whether it was just that journey of going through it, whether it was in ’15 or ’16, whatever it is, that just helps you in this process because you have eight games to lock in and do something special.”

So for Pop-watchers of a certain age, it’s hard to resist rewinding to the height of his reverence for the Jazz every time Popovich huddles with the budding Utah star Donovan Mitchell these days — a frequent occurrence on the U.S.A. Basketball practice floor. A picture of coach and player after a recent intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas, side by side and backs to the camera, slammed home the point: Mitchell has begun a six-week course of higher learning under Popovich.

Popovich still isn’t sure what he has roster-wise, but he can point to at least one luxury as he finally settles into his dream job as Mike Krzyzewski’s successor: Mitchell’s rise alongside the All-Star guard Kemba Walker will enable the United States to field an elite starting backcourt at the FIBA World Cup in China from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15. “Just try to throw yourself completely into it,” Snyder said he told Mitchell. “And try to communicate with Coach as much as you can. Be a sponge.”

Yet the mere mention of the word “scrimmage,” for a U.S.A.B. contingent in Las Vegas, inevitably evokes images of what happened to George. That’s the reality even when both player and program can gratefully say, on this unpleasant five-year anniversary, that they have rebounded as well as anyone could have hoped. “It was a travesty when it took place, and it just put us back on our heels,” Jerry Colangelo, U.S.A.B.’s managing director, said Thursday on the eve of Friday’s scrimmage. “But time has a way of healing. The fact that Paul came back all the way and it didn’t affect his career, it kind of minimized what transpired.”

U.S.A.B.’s struggles to attract stars for this summer’s World Cup bid have been a persistent N.B.A. story line over the past month. Those troubles, though, are more often attributed to player apathy toward a non-Olympic tournament, along with general concerns about workload and travel amid the league’s rising “load management” movement, rather than fretting about a George repeat. “No, sir,” Boston’s Kemba Walker said when asked if he viewed George’s story as a cautionary tale before accepting U.S.A.B.’s invitation to be the face of this World Cup squad.

All of that would have been hard to imagine on Aug. 1, 2014, seeing George, with his right leg placed in an air cast and teammates like Plumlee all around him so visibly shaken, taken out of the Thomas & Mack on a stretcher. “Hard to watch,” Walker said, recalling the broadcast he watched that night while traveling in Atlanta. “Sad.” Said Colangelo: “If Paul had gone down for the count, it would have been tragic for him and for us. Thank God it didn’t go down that way.”

USA National Team members expected at the World Cup training camp include Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat); Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Jaylen Brown(Boston Celtics); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); and Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls).

The 14-man USA Basketball Select Team includes Jarrett Allen (Brooklyn Nets); Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings); Mikal Bridges (Phoenix Suns); Jalen Brunson (Dallas Mavericks); John Collins (Atlanta Hawks); Pat Connaughton (Milwaukee Bucks); Craig; De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Jonathan Isaac (Orlando Magic); Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies); Mitchell Robinson (New York Knicks); Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs); and Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks).

Mitchell will also attend Team USA’s national team training camp Aug. 5-9 in Las Vegas. He hopes to earn a spot on the final 12-man roster for the FIBA World Cup in China, but his goal is to come back to Utah a much-improved player. “A lot of it, I’m just keeping it to myself with just being a better playmaker and a better player overall, being more efficient, and those are the obvious things, and then being in better shape,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully making the USA team will help with that.”

Thompson did not sound as definitive as he walked through an arena hallway following practice on Wednesday. Thompson mused, “I don’t even know what I’m getting for tonight, bro.” Thompson then added, “my focus is on winning this game tomorrow.” Still, it appears unlikely Thompson will play, according to a source familiar with his thinking. Thompson has appeared in five consecutive NBA Finals. He wants to focus on his pending free agency and a planned trip to China as part of his work with Anta from July 12 through 22.

If Walker plays, something he said he would like to do, he will come up against Japan in the group stage, with the Akatsuki Five, Turkey and the Czech Republic set to battle it out with the Americans for a place in the second round. “It will be an honor, of course, it will be the first time in my professional career that I will get the opportunity to compete for the U.S.A. team,” he said. “It will be an honor to play against Japan. I love playing against different competition, especially guys from another country, so I am looking forward to it.”

“He was remarkable, spectacular, off the charts, what he did to qualify USA for the world championships,” Popovich said of Van Gundy, who has worked as a television analyst since being fired by the Rockets. “He put together about five different teams, of mostly different players every time, and had a short amount of time to get ready. If they didn’t do well, the U.S. doesn’t go, and he deserves a lot of credit for doing that. I’m very grateful to him for what he did.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Head coach Gregg Popovich has named former player and friend Steve Kerr as an assistant coach on Team USA for the next two summers, an indication that the Golden State Warriors coach is emerging as an option to become head coach sometime in the future. USA Basketball made the announcement Thursday. Popovich also named Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan and Villanova head coach Jay Wright as assistants. Popovich and this coaching staff will work with the national team for the 2019 World Cup in China and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
2 years ago via ESPN

“This is an incredible opportunity and one I’m extremely grateful for,” Kerr said in a statement. “I had the good fortune to participate in our USA Basketball program as an amateur, and to have the chance to return to the world stage three decades later and work under Pop, one of my former coaches and a mentor, is a tremendous honor.” Kerr played for Team USA in the 1986 World Championships in Madrid while he was a player at Arizona. He hasn’t been a part of Team USA since 1988 as he’s focused on his NBA playing, front office and coaching career. Popovich bringing him into the fold will give him experience with the international game that could be put to use later.

The USA will continue its training through Sept. 13 at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. The USA, playing in the first competition window of FIBA World Cup Qualifying second-round games, will meet Uruguay on Sept. 14 (7 p.m. PDT) at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion, then meet Panama on Sept. 17 in Panama City. The USA roster is capped by Bryce Alford (Oklahoma City Blue); Dwayne Bacon (Charlotte Hornets); Henry Ellenson (Detroit Pistons); Reggie Hearn (Grand Rapids Drive); Isaiah Hicks (New York Knicks); Dakari Johnson (Free Agent);Frank Mason III (Sacramento Kings); Ben Moore (Fort Wayne Mad Ants); Chasson Randle (Capital City Go-Go); Travis Trice (Milwaukee Bucks); Jameel Warney (Texas Legends); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

Featuring 10 players who played for NBA teams in 2017-18, and the return of two players boasting of previous World Cup Qualifying game experience, USA Basketball announced today 14 players who will vie for a roster spot with USA’s September World Cup Qualifying Team. The hopefuls will open training camp on Sept. 6 at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. The Las Vegas training camp will be used to determine the 12-man team for the USA’s first competition window of FIBA World Cup Qualifying second-round games. The U.S. will square off against Uruguay on Sept. 14 (7 p.m. PDT) at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion, then meet Panama on Sept. 17 in Panama City. The player selections were made by the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team Committee.

Returning to contend for a USA roster spot after previously playing with USA World Cup Qualifying Teams are guard Reggie Hearn (Grand Rapids Drive) and center Jameel Warney (Texas Legends). Hearn played with the USA’s November 2017 and June 2018 World Cup Qualifying Teams, and while getting the starting nod in all four games, averaged 12.3 points a game. Warney played for U.S. in the November World Cup Qualifier and averaged 11.5 points and 8.0 rebounds a game. Both players were also part of the USA AmeriCup Team that finished 5-0 to claim gold in August 2017. Warney, who was selected the 2017 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year, earned AmeriCup MVP honors after posting 12.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, while Hearn contributed 10.0 points a game. Rounding out the U.S. training camp roster are Bryce Alford (Oklahoma City Blue); Dwayne Bacon (Charlottw Hornets); V.J. Beachem (Free Agent); Jordan Crawford (New Orleans Pelicans); Henry Ellenson (Detroit Pistons); Isaiah Hicks (New York Knicks); Dakari Johnson (Free Agent); Frank Mason III (Sacramento Kings); Ben Moore (Fort Wayne Mad Ants); Chasson Randle (Capital City Go-Go); Travis Trice (Milwaukee Bucks); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

Now it appears all might be not be as it appears with Robinson’s immediate future, with Heat President Pat Riley providing insight on the 3-point specialist’s plans in advance of training camp. “I’m really proud in the fact that Duncan Robinson has been invited to play in the international series,” Riley said of the September window for World Cup qualifying, “but he decided to stay here because he wanted to make our team, he wants to force us into giving him a real contract.”
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December 2, 2020 | 3:37 pm EST Update
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