Sometimes, we forget how much playing in the NBA is like any regular job. You show up. You get kneed in the nuts. You get paid. And then you do it all again the next day.
Elite NBA players have not dropped out of playing for Team USA like this since 2004, when nobody wanted to play for Larry Brown and rumors of potential terrorism in Athens had the NBA’s best backing out.
For the 2019 World Cup in China, the USA had James Harden, Anthony Davis, Tobias Harris, Bradley Beal, Eric Gordon, and CJ McCollum all back out, robbing the American team of a lot of star power. Zion Williamson, who was projected to be part of the “select team” of young stars Team USA goes against also dropped out.
The Americans were down to 14 players heading into training camp (12 will be chosen to travel to China), and they needed more players. Enter Boston’s Marcus Smart, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Expect at least one more veteran name to be added before training camp opens.
That’s a solid selection, an elite defender who can shut down the best wing players on other teams (and in FIBA competition only a couple of teams have more than one top-flight wing player to handle).
So who is on the USA roster now? Let’s break it out by position:
(We could argue about whether Mitchell is a guard or a wing, but you get the basic picture.)
After Lillard, that roster does lack star power.
But the USA talent pool is so deep that it will overwhelm all but a couple of teams in the tournament. Serbia — led by Nikola Jokic and Bogan Bogdanovic — is the biggest threat to the USA and has good depth. Spain is impressive as well, but older.
The USA is and should be the World Cup favorite, but an improved rest of the world and a depleted USA roster is going to make things a lot more interesting.
USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.
The Tim Duncan era in San Antonio is over quite yet.
The future Hall of Famer has been added full time to Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff with the Spurs, the team announced Monday.
“It is only fitting, that after I served loyally for 19 years as Tim Duncan’s assistant, that he returns the favor,” Popovich said.
Duncan was around the Spurs practice facility a lot last season, helping out informally. Now it is formal.
Expect more bank shots from the Spurs big men next season.
Duncan was at the heart of the Spurs historic NBA dynasty the past couple of decades. The future Hall of Famer is a five-time NBA champion and three-time Finals MVP, 15 time All-NBA teams, 15 times NBA All-Defensive teams, 15-time All-Star, and way back when the Rookie of the Year. However, his impact was greater than just that insane resume, he was the guy who set the tone and the work ethic for those Spurs teams. Duncan worked as hard as anyone, won as much as anyone, but did it without trying to draw attention to himself. If fact, he wanted to deflect it.
The Spurs will be competitive for a playoff spot in the deep West this season — they still have LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, plus Dejonte Murray gets healthy and returns — but are poised to start a rebuilding process in the coming years.
We will see if Duncan wants to be part of that, or if he is only around while Popovich remains the coach (somebody has to go to dinner with Pop). But he has earned the right to pretty much any role he wants.
The Spurs also announced that Will Hardy will be added to the bench as an assistant coach.
“Will Hardy is a talented, young basketball mind who has earned a great deal of respect from everyone in the organization thanks to his knowledge, spirit and personality,” Popovich said.
The theoretical lineup of players who’ve withdrawn from consideration for Team USA’s FIBA World Cup roster just gained frontcourt depth.
So far, we had:
- James Harden (Houston Rockets)
- CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)
- Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
- Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets)
- Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
Add Tobias Harris.
Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:
Harris is a real loss. He’s a good player whose ability to blend with other good players – as he showed with the 76ers last season – would’ve made him particularly helpful on Team USA.
The Americans still have other forwards available – Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum, Harrison Barnes, Kyle Kuzma, Paul Millsap, P.J. Tucker. But none match Harris’ combination of talent and frontcourt versatility.
USA Basketball is down to just 14 players for its training camp next month:
- Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)
- Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
- Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)
- Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
- Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)
- Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
- Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
- Paul Millsap (Denver Nuggets)
- Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
- Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
- P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets)
- Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)
- Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
The U.S. almost must add more players to the pool.
The Wizards will offer Bradley Beal a max contract extension when he’s eligible Friday, new general manager Tommy Sheppard confirmed to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Washington will give Beal his choice of length. The maxes:
- One year, $34,502,129
- Two years, $71,764,428
- Three years, $111,786,897
But that’s less each season than Beal could get by playing out his current contract then re-signing. It’s even less each season than Beal could get by playing out his current contract then leaving. And it’s way less than Beal could get if he becomes eligible for a super-max deal (either an extension next offseason or re-signing in 2021) if he makes an All-NBA team either of the next two seasons.
Here are Beal’s max salaries on an extension and projected max salaries on a new contract:
*Beal’s super-max amounts would be the same on an extension next offseason or fresh contract the following year.
So, it’s hard to see Beal accepting an extension.
He’d get financial security. There’s always risk in waiting – injury, unexpected decline or something else.
But Beal is so talented and just 26. The NBA is also short on quality shooting guards. He’s in tremendous position to secure a max contract in 2021 free agency.
So, how will the Wizards react if Beal doesn’t sign right now?
If Beal passes on the extension, the Wizards have no plans to engage in trade talks with two years, $55.8 million left on his contract, Sheppard said.
“He’s got two years left on his deal, and he’s from Missouri and we are going to have to show him,” Sheppard told ESPN. “We need to show him that we are about building this the right way, that we aren’t going to have character-deficient guys around him. We are going to surround him with guys he wants to play with. He saw that right away in free agency with us bringing back Thomas Bryant.”
They’re really going to pitch him on playing with Thomas Bryant. Thomas Bryant! And I like Thomas Bryant. He was a breath of fresh air for the Wizards last season, and they re-signed him for $25 million over three years. But he’s also still just Thomas Bryant.
Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant?
That’s supposed to tempt Beal to stay in Washington?
The Wizards will likely be bad next year. John Wall could miss the entire season, and his huge salary encumbered Washington’s ability to add other players. Beal has touted his loyalty to the Wizards. But after living through what will likely be a miserable season, how will he feel about Washington then?
Beal said the Wizards told him they wouldn’t trade him. Sheppard has now gone public with that message.
There’s still plenty left to unfold. Beal isn’t even yet eligible for an extension. Maybe he’ll shock me and sign one this summer.
If not, the Wizards likely face an uphill battle for keeping him happy enough to stay in 2021 free agency.