CHICAGO — Rudy Gay was a late addition to this summer’s USA Basketball roster, joining the team after mini-camp in Las Vegas had ended and only being needed by the squad thanks to the unfortunate injury suffered by Paul George.
But even though he came aboard less than a week ago and went through his first practice with the team Thursday as training camp resumed in Chicago, Jerry Colangelo believes that Gay has a very real shot at making the 12-man roster for the FIBA World Cup, which tips off later this month.
“Yes, he does have a legitimate chance,” Colangelo said. “Rudy was on our 2010 World Championship team. He made a great contribution there, he’s in pretty good shape, and he stepped in today like he hadn’t missed a bit, either.”
Gay’s place in the starting lineup of the White team for the day’s final scrimmage — alongside Derrick Rose, James Harden, Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis — essentially confirms Colangelo’s statement. But Gay hasn’t been told whether he’ll be in the same spot in the future.
“We don’t know,” Gay said of the team’s starting lineup. “Coach K keeps that in his back pocket until it’s go time.”
Once Team USA lost George to injury, there was no guarantee that they would bring in anyone else — both due to time constraints, as well as because of the unfamiliarity the majority of candidates have with the USA Basketball program. And, the team can only take 12 players to the World Championships, so some guys who have been there from the beginning won’t make the cut. But Gay reached out and asked to be added, and the prompting to do so came from an unlikely source.
“My ownership with the Kings, he pushed me into it,” Gay said. “And then my agency, they told me I probably should think about it. I had fun last time. I learned a lot, and it was great for me. Also, the guys — a couple of the guys I played with before, and also the World Championship team. They kind of pushed me into playing here again.”
Mark Cuban has famously said he would have his players nowhere near international competition if it was his choice, but Colangelo doesn’t believe that those remarks have much to do with the players.
“His comments were about money, they weren’t about players playing,” Colangelo said.
Gay believes that the owner of the team he plays for, however, is interested more in the basketball side.
“He’s a basketball guy,” Gay said of Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive. “Not to say anything about Mark Cuban, because he’s protecting his investments. Obviously, to an extent, everybody has personal feelings about whether guys should play during the summer or not. But we talked, and he felt the way I felt … that the thing with Paul was kind of a freak accident.”
Gay is no lock to make the team, but it’s more than possible Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski decide that with Kevin Durant gone and the team needing to get its offense now from a wider variety of sources, he’s one of the better options. Krzyzewski was asked what his plans were to redistribute Durant’s “20 shots per game,” and for obvious reasons, he wasn’t exactly worried about who in particular might be willing to step up.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of hands raised,” Krzyzewski said.