Storyline: World Cup

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But where does that leave Team USA this summer? Who is left to build around? Well, there’s Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton and Donovan Mitchell. Those five are probably the most talented players left on the USA’s roster. On paper, that group represents a dynamic and talented core that can compete with virtually anyone. But that doesn’t guarantee success. First of all, there is a significant drop off in talent from previous years. During the most recent Olympics, Team USA had nine reigning All-Stars, but this current collection only has two – the lowest total since 1998, a lockout year for the NBA in which the professionals mostly opted out. And the competition in the 2019 FIBA World Cup isn’t just anyone.

“We have a bunch of guys who don’t mind being the underdogs,” Walker told reporters. “We are hungry, and we are going to go out there to try and win a gold medal…I take pride in being a leader and guys looking to me and I’m here to set the tempo and bring my experience and energy.” Walker is arguably the best player on the team, so it’s no surprise that he’s a captain. Mitchell being named a captain isn’t a shock either, when you consider how he came in as a rookie and showed tremendous ability as a leader with the Jazz and has continued to build off that success.

Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich said that the atmosphere created by 51,218 fans in Marvel Stadium during the game of his team against Australia made him feel like he was in a movie. “It felt like I was in a movie. Like it was a movie set. I kept looking behind because I knew I was going to fall off stage. And then I talked to my coaches saying “I don’t know what the hell is going on.’ It was a really weird coaching situation,” Popovich said during the post-game presser.

Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes, the only member of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games gold-medal squad who is currently on Team USA’s roster, was excited about the opportunity. “For me, I make the commitment anytime USA Basketball asks,” Barnes told The Undefeated. “As long as my family is good and I am healthy, I will be out here playing as long as they give me the opportunity. … Everyone is different. Some guys are coming off injury. Some guys had commitments. For me, I try to take advantage of it every time I can to play for my country. To be able to suit up with these guys, that has been fun.”
5 days ago via ESPN

Stan Okoye, Ekpe Udoh, Ike Iroegbu, and Gabe Vincent were among those who aired their grievances on social media, posting and reshaping the message. They said: “It has been an honor and privilege to play and represent Nigeria in preparation for the FIBA World Cup. However, the sports commission of Nigeria refuses to release the money allocated to us for training, food, travel and equipment in order to properly prepare for the World Cup. It’s made things very difficult as the president of the federation, coaching staff and even players have had to pay for everything personally.”

Brazil will travel to China having a veteran team which can’t be underestimated. Rafael Hettsheimeir was the last cut from the pre-selection roster and many familiar names still have gas on their tank. The 12 players selected by coach Alexander Petrovic are the following: Marcelinho Huertas (Iberostar Tenerife) Rafa Luz (MorBanc Andorra), Yago Mateus (Paulistano), Didi Louzada (New Orleans Pelicans), Alex Garcia, Vitor Benite ( San Pablo Burgos), Leandro Barbosa (Minas Tenis), Marquinhos (Flamengo), Bruno Caboclo (Memphis Grizzlies), Anderson Varejao (Flamengo), Cristiano Felicio (Chicago Bulls), Augusto Lima (San Pablo Burgos).

The USA World Cup finalists roster currently includes 13 players — Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

While Kuzma’s odds are as good as ever – the national team needs to make only two cuts to reach the 12-man group they’ll take to the FIBA World Cup in China – much of the buzz from a week of camp in L.A. indicates that he’s still squarely on the bubble. Kuzma made some strides to help himself Friday night, in the USA’s 90-81 exhibition win over Spain, a slightly past-its-prime basketball power. But still sharing a court with NBA stalwarts such as Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol, Kuzma held his own with seven points, five rebounds and three assists – potentially helping make his case that he belongs in red, white and blue next month on the international stage.

Donovan Mitchell scored 13 points, Khris Middleton added 12 and the U.S. topped Spain 90-81 on Friday night in a warmup exhibition in advance of the FIBA World Cup that starts in China on Aug. 31. The Americans shot 55 percent from the field, 58 percent from 3-point range and held a commanding 42-20 edge in rebounds. “It was a good chance to jump in the fray and see what this is all about,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said after his official debut as Mike Krzyzewski’s replacement with the national team. “It was like a baptism for us. New group, players, coaches, all that sort of thing. It was a real experience.”
1 week ago via ESPN

Regarding the chatter of just how good this team can be, USA forward Harrison Barnes told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, “We hear the noise. It’s just about the 14 guys that we got here right now, and when we go to Australia, it’s about just us, getting better, continuing to grow closer on and off the floor, and we’ll go from there.” Barnes added that the team is “motivated more than anything to keep the gold standard going, by the teams that went before us, that went and won the World Cup, that went and won the Olympics multiple times. That’s what we’re chasing right now.”

Marc Stein: A scrappy squad of players featuring some who played in @FIBAWC qualifying for @usabasketball and are being coached again this week by Jeff Van Gundy just took it to the USAB senior national team in a scrimmage open at the end to the media. Final score: 36-17

Following four days of training and Friday night’s USA Blue-USA White intrasquad exhibition game in Las Vegas, USA Basketball announced 17 finalists for the 2019 USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Team. The 17 include 13 athletes from the USA National Team roster and four players from the USA Select Team. Finalists include 2016 Olympic gold medalist Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings); Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics); De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); 2014 World Cup gold medalist 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 Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).
2 weeks ago via ESPN

The roster moves were based mostly on play during the week, not just on Friday night’s showing. “It’s the beginning, a new tournament, another World Cup, and I think our guys are making progress,” new U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. “They haven’t played together before. Showing great effort, doing a good job in a lot of different ways, just trying to get used to each other and form a team. We’re still in those early stages of trying to get together, figure out how we want to play and learn about each other.”
2 weeks ago via FIBA

They were oh-so-close just three summers ago at the Olympics in Rio de Janerio, when they reached the Semi-Finals and looked like the team to beat. But they lost the next two games and finished fourth, leaving a bad taste in Ingles’ mouth. “Losing the (Third Place Game) sucked. But we’ve never been that close, in years. Now it’s about putting it all together,” the 31-year-old said entering another summer with the national team. “It’s going to be exciting. We’ll have a lot of support there, and hopefully we can be the first team to bring a medal back to Australia.”
2 weeks ago via FIBA

With 11 years of international basketball in Australia, Spain, Israel and the USA behind him, he will be the calming presence in the locker room. And he will know what to say if his teammates need any kind of motivation, because even for a seen-it-all guy like Ingles, there is no greater feeling than playing for Australia. “Wearing the colors, the name…it’s just something that you can’t get anywhere else. I love playing the NBA, I loved playing in Europe, but putting on the colors and the name on the jersey, there’s just really nothing that compares to that.”

The list of players who chose not to participate is much more accomplished and recognizable but Colangelo has his theories on what contributed to a summer filled with rejections. “What’s caused it? Well, I have to be realistic about things. It’s a little bit different culture than it was 12 years ago, 14 years ago. And that’s just life. That’s just reality,” Colangelo said. “The money is three times what it was back then. Agents are even more powerful, in terms of control. I’m not sure, because of the big investment teams have in their players, their stars, they’re a little hesitant. They may say they’re supporting, but look, I’m a big boy, I understand what’s going on, so that’s just a fact of life. We have to adjust.

“Last year, we invited everybody to Vegas. Everyone said, ‘I want to play. I want to play. I want to play.’ I couldn’t do anything about a change in decision, for whatever the reasons might be. I have to accept it. I don’t have any leverage on the players,” Colangelo said this week in a sit-down interview with The Athletic. “Of course, you’re disappointed at the moment, but very quickly, you have to bury that and you go forward with the best possible group you can. I’m thankful for the group that we have, the kind of depth that we have, because there are a lot of good basketball players here.”

“First of all, I had a great relationship with Melo. He did a great job. He actually might have been as good or better in international play as he was in the NBA. Point is, he was very good in international play,” Colangelo said. “I understood why the agent, he’s looking to get him the exposure, looking to get him another shot. But the only way (Anthony) can really be satisfied is for him to have another shot in the NBA, with another team and recently, he’s been aggressive media-wise, letting people know, ‘I feel like I can still play. I just need an opportunity, blah, blah, blah.’ With us, that would’ve been more of a distraction, as we discussed it. We need to focus on this team concept. We have a bunch of new guys and we’re going to go with this new group. And when you insert a different element and it detracts in any way, you lose it. That was it. That’s no reflection on Carmelo. I love the guy. But I don’t think it would’ve been healthy for our program at this time.”

“The format played a role. FIBA going back to this back-to-back, (20)19 and ‘20, with two NBA seasons in between, is a killer,” he continued. “If you’re sitting in an NBA office, owner of a team or whatever, I tell you, ‘I don’t know, I’ve got $150 million invested in this guy. If he wants to go, we’ll work it out but I’m not going to encourage him.’ FIBA changing the formula created a whole ‘nother level of stuff… I’m a believer, I was at the time, I still am, that the new format benefitted everyone else in the world, not us. We’re the only ones really hurt by that. Because we have an NBA season.”

Ric Bucher: Derrick White is being invited to LA when Team USA reconvenes there next week, a program official told me, which essentially means he has been promoted from the select practice squad to the World Cup roster. (Look for Marvin Bagley to be promoted as well.) One coach told me White was the best player on either team in the Day 2 scrimmages and on Day 3 I saw him damn near replicate that with my own eyes as the select squad played the World Cup squad to a draw in consecutive 10-minute scrimmages.

It’s safe to assume that two of those 15 (or so) are Lowry and Smart. So we may see two healthy players cut from the roster between Friday’s intrasquad scrimmage and next Tuesday. That will be a difficult process, both in distinguishing a group of players that seem to be on the same level and telling guys that they’re no longer needed. “They’re all tough decisions, because you have a whole roster full of really good players,” Kerr said. “Cutting players is always hard, even in [NBA] training camp every year. We bring in guys for camp who we know aren’t going to make the team, they know they’re not going to make the team, and yet to sit down with them and say, ‘This is it,’ it’s brutal. “We’re going to have to do that with a handful of players here, and it’s going to be even more difficult, because they’ve all cut time out of their summers to come here and try to play for their country. Everybody’s excited to be here and wants to be part of it, but we can only take 12. So it’s going to be tough.”

Joining Bolden and Cooks as fresh faces in the team is Jock Landale, who made his Boomers debut in February during the final FIBA World Cup qualifying window. Landale is currently signed to Lithuanian club Žalgiris Kaunas, while he also starred for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Summer League. Six members of the 2016 Olympic team will return, with Aron Baynes, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Chris Goulding, Joe Ingles and Patrick Mills taking their places in the Boomers team. With five NBL players in the team, Rio Olympians Bogut and Goulding will suit up alongside Cameron Gliddon, Nicholas Kay and Nathan Sobey. The latter three will all play in their first major international tournament after playing key roles in helping the Boomers qualify for the World Cup.
3 weeks ago via FIBA

And although Vucevic describes Greece as favorite in the group, it’s a challenging that Vucevic looks forward to. “When you look at their roster, with guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, (Nick) Calathes, and many more other players, they are one of the best teams in the competition. They have a lot of talent and a lot of experience. Brazil has a lot of players that gained experience at FIBA level in the last couple of years, and they are very competitive too. New Zealand has a good team too; they always play and fight hard to have the best result in every competition they compete at,” he said.

Head coach Gregg Popovich, the Jazz staff and the rest of Team USA? They want to see Mitchell put himself in position to be a leader, even with his relative lack of experience. They want to see Mitchell continually make plays for himself and others. They want to see him refine all facets of his game during the course of the week. “We know what he’s capable of doing,” Popovich said. “He’s one of those guys who is capable of playing a couple of different positions, and that’s important. For Donovan, it’s all about continued confidence and understanding of the game. We want him to affect the game for everyone else. We want him to continue to work on his skills. He’s a heck of a competitor, and that’s a great place to start. He has a lot of offensive abilities that we like. He can drive it, he can shoot it from 3 or he can go to the hole. So we want to just refine the things that he does well as the week goes on.”

By asking players and coaches for insight, Fox is hoping to pick up on the nuances of being an NBA player and bring them back to Sacramento. “I’m the type of guy that’s going to ask questions,” Fox said. “If I don’t know something, there’s no reason for me to sit there and not know it. Not just those guys, but PJ (Tucker), who’s been on teams like that; Kyle (Lowry), who just won a championship; Kemba (Walker), who’s been an All-NBA type player. So I’m just out here asking questions. And of course I’m trying to do what’s best for the team, but I want to grow as a player as well.”

Fox has already found the environment around the National Team encouraging. He knows international play is different from the NBA, and he might have to adjust his game a bit. One thing no one wants to see Fox to do is slow down. “They told me to come out here and play the way I play,” Fox said. “Kyle is showing me some of the ropes and said, ‘Never slow down, always play fast, but of course be poised.’ I think the game is totally different. There’s definitely a bit of a learning curve; that’s what we’re trying to do with this training camp.”
3 weeks ago via ESPN

More than a dozen players who were on the national team roster elected to remove their names, leaving the team thinner than is preferred at some spots. “All I care about is who’s here,” Popovich said. “I’ve got a fine group of guys and we’re going to get the best possible team we can. … This is the most satisfying form of putting a bunch of guys together and them have empathy and love for each other to form the kind of team they’re going to have to have to beat some really good European teams.”
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August 24, 2019 | 12:26 pm EDT Update
France came back from a 16-point deficit to beat New Zealand 95 – 81 in its first preparation game in China, ahead of the World Cup. Nando De Colo scored 19 points while Frank Ntilikina and Rudy Gobert added 12 points apiece for the French side. Corey Webster contributed 11 points, Tohi Smith-Milner 11 and Tom Abercrombie 10 to New Zealand.
August 24, 2019 | 11:07 am EDT Update