Big names — and some athletic, tough role players — are going to get the chance to earn a spot on Team USA this summer.
On August 5, USA Basketball will open its training camp in Las Vegas with 18 players. Eventually, 12 will be chosen to put on the Team USA jersey for the World Cup in China. Reports have now given us 16 of the players who will get invites.
We already knew about Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kemba Walker, and Donovan Mitchell, plus Zion Williamson was going to be given a chance to make the team right out of college (something Anthony Davis did). Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN gave us more names on the list on Wednesday.
Notice nobody playing in these Finals — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson — are on that list, but all could fit well with this squad. At least a couple will get invites, the question is after a long season (or for the Warriors, seasons) will they accept them?
LeBron James has already said he will not play this summer.
The official invite list is expected next week.
What you see is the making of a roster that can play the style coach Gregg Popovich wants in China — athleticism to run the floor and play in transition, plus plenty of shooting, including from the big men. Also, some grinders who can play a physical game and crash the boards (the international game tends to be more physical, and the referees let more go than in the NBA).
What Popovich is thinking is what Mike Krzyzewski did before him — not merely a collection of stars, but a balanced roster that can play as a unit. The USA’s athleticism can overwhelm all but a couple of teams in this tournament, the goal is an aggressive defense that leads to a lot of transition points, more than most teams can handle. The couple that can (Spain the past couple of Olympics, for example) require more strategy and matchups.
It has been expected a lot of NBA’s big names would sign up to play in this World Cup. The games take place in China, a massive, fast-growing basketball shoe and apparel market. This is a marketing event for Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Under Armor, Puma, and any other shoe brand you can think of — they want their stars on the court and playing if possible. This World Cup also is the primary qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and players interested in representing the USA there get a leg up playing this summer.
USA Basketball will open 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.