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USA Basketball Men's National Team Blue And White Game

First guess at who makes Team USA for 2014 World Championships


The FIBA World Cup – the basketball World Championships coming to Spain next summer — don’t play as big in the United States as the Olympics. It can get overlooked… unless Team USA loses, then newspaper columnists who hadn’t given the thing a sideways glance will pontificate on how this is some kind of disaster.

That said the World Championships do matter. First, it’s at the very least the second most important international basketball tournament in the world (some countries would argue it trumps the Olympics, but it doesn’t play that way here). Second, win event in Spain next summer and you are automatically qualified for the Rio Olympics. Come in second or lower and you need to put together a 2015 Team USA good enough to win the qualification tournament to get into the Olympics. And Mike Krzyzewski would like a summer off.

So who makes our 2014 roster?

We know that Kevin Durant and Kevin Love are both in, and we can guess a number of guys from the USA mini-camp just held in Las Vegas make it.

What follows is my guess, based on past play with past national teams and the recent camp.

But this guess starts with some assumptions: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Andre Iguodala and some other elite stars will not play. That could change, but my guess is 2014 is going to be the league’s young stars, with some of those established guys coming back in 2016.

The roster:

Russell Westbrook
Derrick Rose
Kyrie Irving
Stephen Curry
James Harden
Paul George
Kevin Durant
Kawhi Leonard
Kevin Love
Blake Griffin
Anthony Davis
DeMarcus Cousins

If your first thought is “that’s four point guards” you’re right, although I think in international ball I would use Curry as a two guard off the bench who comes in and starts lighting the scoreboard up with shots from three feet behind the arc. At the 2012 Olympics Team USA carried three points and only four bigs, but it’s easier to do that with LeBron and his versatility on the roster (both LeBron and ‘Melo could play the four). I think Kenneth Faried played his way into a bubble spot on this roster if Griffin or someone does not want to go.

I think Durant is going to play some four. I think Leonard takes over as the defensive glue player. Davis showed in the USA scrimmage last week that he’s improved and his shot will be great in the international game. I think Coach K can’t go wrong starting Westbrook or Irving.

The USA Basketball brain trust is going to watch the first half of next season before making any calls — how do Rose and Love come back from injuries, for example? Plus, it is possible guys like Andre Drummond play their way into a spot.

But I think the Team USA Roster will look pretty similar to that next spring.

U.S. Soldier with windmill dunk in full fatigues (VIDEO)

U.S. Flag

We showed you the other highlights out of Thursday night’s Team USA scrimmage, but this was the best play of the night:

A windmill dunk by a young U.S. Airman in full fatigues and wearing boots. If you can dunk like that wearing all that gear, you got hops.

Sir, we salute you.

Damian Lillard plans to work out with Gary Payton

Damian Lillard, Doug McDermott

Newly minted, soon to be inducted Hall of Famer Gary Payton is a Damian Lillard fan.

“I like Damian Lillard because he’s from Oakland, California, and he’s a phenomenal basketball player,” Payton told ProBasketballTalk last January. “He should be the rookie of the year, he’s playing very well right now for Portland and I love his game.”

Now arguably the two best point guards ever to come out of Oakland may get together this summer and work out, tweets Mike Tokito of the Oregonian.

Lillard spent the last week at the Team USA mini-camp in Las Vegas, where in the Blue and White scrimmage Thursday he got in a first quarter duel with Kyrie Irving.

Working with Payton would be a very good thing for Lillard — his challenges are not on the offensive end of the court, rather it is his defense. Payton, “The Glove”, is headed to the Hall of Fame in part because of his defense. Granted, the physical, in-your-face, contact-filled defense Payton used on Michael Jordan would draw foul calls now, but there are still techniques and tactics Payton could pass along.

Payton worked with John Wall last summer, particularly on his jump shot and when to use it. At the end of last season, when Wall finally got healthy, his jumper looked good.