Most of the NBA’s biggest names are candidates for Team USA in the 2019 World Cup.
But the Americans first must qualify.
FIBA, in its infinite wisdom, scheduled qualifying windows that largely overlap with the NBA season or come close to it. So, USA Basketball has sent teams of mostly minor-leaguers for qualifiers in November, February and June/July. David Stockton played earlier this summer while still under contract with the Jazz, but it was always fait accompli they’d waive him and his unguaranteed deal. Alex Caruso also played earlier this summer while on a two-way with the Lakers.
It has gone well enough. The U.S. is 5-1, though it got upset by Mexico.
But the Americans – who host Uruguay Sept. 14 in Las Vegas then play Panama on Sept. 17 – will bolster their roster for the next qualifying window. They’re adding a bona fide NBA player with a guaranteed salary… Pistons big Henry Ellenson.
Rod Beard of The Detroit News:
Despite his superior contract status, Ellenson isn’t really a gamechanger. Some of the minor-leaguers who’ve already played for Jeff Van Gundy in these qualifiers are probably better than the 21-year-old Ellenson.
Besides, the U.S. should beat Uruguay and Panama, anyway (though I would have said the same about Mexico).
But I am curious whether this indicates USA Basketball will add other NBA players to the roster for next month. There are a few days between the Panama game and NBA training camps opening.
Or maybe Ellenson is just the rare exact right level of NBA player – barely in the league, in major need of development – to make sense for this event.