VCG/VCG via Getty Images

C.J. McCollum suspects players withdrew from Team USA fearing losing World Cup

3 Comments

First, Anthony Davis withdrew. Then, James Harden withdrew. Then, several others withdrew.

All told, USA Basketball went through more than 50 players until settling on its star-deficient World Cup training-camp roster.

It’s not shocking so many players turned down Team USA in the first place, though I thought more would be eager to play in China. The World Cup typically draws less talent than the Olympics, the premier event for international basketball. The World Cup is now only a year before the Olympics, which would mean back-to-back summers for players who want to play in the 2020 Olympics. The World Cup is also close to the NBA season, when many teams will travel abroad for preseason games.

But those factors have been present all along. Why did so many players sign up then withdraw?

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, one of the players to do that, explained.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

McCollum:

Their decision didn’t affect me. I was thinking about me. I was thinking about the Portland Trail Blazers and my family.

I think other guys looked at it like, “Why would I want to go potentially be the face of what could be a losing roster?”

Or the workload part. If we all played, the workload is less. Twenty, 25 minutes. You’re getting blowouts, whatever. You’re moving on. A lot of guys don’t play, your minutes might go up. Your usage might go up.

Each player made his own decision for his own reasons. Sometimes, it’s the reason given publicly. Sometimes, it’s not.

But I’m glad McCollum gave voice to the suspicion I’ve held – that these dropouts have not been independently determined.

When top players withdraw, they put more pressure on the remaining top players. Then, the new top players make the same calculus – that the pressure is too great. Then, the new top players make the same calculus – that the pressure is too great. And so on.

I can’t confirm that’s what’s happening. But it looks like that’s what’s happening. McCollum’s assessment only adds evidence, though it’s possible he too is supposing.

The Americans are still favored in the World Cup. They have an unmatched depth of NBA talent. But this also resembles the Team USA rosters that have previously fallen short of gold. Don’t assume a U.S. victory.

For the Americans to win, they’ll need to lean heavily on their top players. On paper, that’s Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton and, if he’s healthy, Kyle Lowry. Maybe young players like Donovan Mitchell and De'Aaron Fox are ready to breakout.

Whoever it winds up being, those players must carry a heavy load on a team not assured of success.

Which is McCollum’s point.

Zion Williamson has right knee soreness, won’t play final preseason game

Getty
Leave a comment

It’s the preseason, and so teams are trying to be extra cautious with their stars. That will apparently be the case this week as No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson has reportedly not traveled with his New Orlean Pelicans for the final preseason game of the year against the New York Knicks.

Williamson has apparently strained his right knee, and his not heading to New York with the team isn’t looking like it’s just for rest as the regular season approaches. Williamson may actually have a bit of soreness working against him right now, which is the last thing any NBA fans want to hear right now.

Via Twitter:

The release from the Pelicans says that Williamson remained in Louisiana to undergo further testing on his right knee.

Hopefully this is nothing serious and the season can get off to a thrilling start. It certainly looks to be headed in that direction based off of how Williamson has performed already in preseason action.

New Orleans kicks off the regular season on Oct. 22 against the defending champion Toronto Raptors in Ontario.

Michael Jordan opens first of 2 medical clinics in Charlotte

Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — An emotional Michael Jordan unveiled the first of two medical clinics he and his family funded in Charlotte, North Carolina that will provide care to underprivileged members of the community.

The six-time NBA champion and Hornets owner was on hand Thursday for the grand opening of the $7 million Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic. Tears streamed down Jordan’s cheeks as he said, “this is a very emotional thing for me to be able to give back to a community that has supported me over the years.”

The clinic, located in a lower-income section of the city, will provide vital access to primary and preventive care to individuals in the community, including those who are uninsured or underinsured.

Jordan vowed to do more, saying “this is just the start of a battle of being able to touch as many people as we can.”

Jordan first announced the $7 million gift in 2017.

Andrew Wiggins doesn’t agree with people who don’t rank him very high

Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images
2 Comments

This season, his sixth, is going to be the season where Andrew Wiggins looks and plays like he loves the game. His steadily-declining shooting percentages are going to rocket back up. He’s going to break out as an elite player who should have gone No. 1, and not just a guy who gets empty-calorie points.

That’s what Wiggins is thinking, anyway.

ESPN put out its list of top 100 players in the league and very reasonably did not have Wiggins on it, despite him scoring 18.1 points per game last season. In an excellent job of trying to create a second story out of the 100 list by asking about the “snub,” Wiggins said he isn’t worried about what people say about the four-years, $122 million still on his contract, but he wants to re-establish himself, he told Eric Woodyard of ESPN.

“Everyone is counting pockets. Some people are mad about [it], some people are happy for you,” Wiggins told ESPN. “That’s how the world goes, especially when you’ve got something they don’t have or do something they don’t do. That’s how the world goes.

“Even when I averaged almost 24 points and got the max deal, people were still saying stuff,” he added. “Look at max players and some max players don’t average as much, but it is what it is. I’m just trying to get right, get back on track.”

If you just shrugged your shoulders, join the rest of the league.

Most Timberwolves fans have moved on from counting Wiggins as the second star to help out Karl-Anthony Towns. Most front office people on other teams have moved on as well, as evidenced by Wiggins’ nonexistent trade value (sources around the league say Minnesota has tested the market only to find no team that wants that contract unless the Timberwolves throw in sweeteners). 

Minnesota’s new head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said Wiggins has to be a ‘main contributor’ if the Timberwolves are going to return to the playoffs. Which is one reason most experts have them missing out.

But Wiggins believes in himself. Timberwolves fans should expect and want nothing less than that, they just may not want to get their own expectations too high.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse shreds Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson

Mark Blinch/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Raptors no longer have championship-level talent.

They still have championship-level expectations for effort and attention to detail.

Newcomers Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson are learning that the hard way.

Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

That is HARSH.

But the last time he was coaching, Nick Nurse was overseeing a dominant defense deep in the playoffs. It must be a dramatic adjustment going to preseason intensity and sans Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

Nurse might also be trying to motivate Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson, who have the tools to be more effective.

This aren’t new issue for these forwards, though. They were available so cheap for a reason.