Kyle Lowry

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Kyle Lowry (thumb) out for Team USA at World Cup

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So many players declined to play for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. They all had their own reasons. Injury. Family. Upcoming NBA season. Some combination.

Nobody would’ve blamed Kyle Lowry for sitting out after thumb surgery. But he tried hard to recover and make the team, anyway.

Unfortunately…

Lowry:

I love Lowry’s competitiveness. Few players would have pushed it this hard. It’s a shame he won’t play.

The Americans are still in decent shape at point guard with Kemba Walker, De'Aaron Fox and Derrick White. Marcus Smart and Donovan Mitchell can also play both backcourt spots.

It’s other positions that are more concerning.

Marvin Bagley withdraws from consideration for U.S. World Cup team

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Sacramento forward Marvin Bagley III has told USA Basketball that he is withdrawing from consideration for the roster that will be sent to China this month for the FIBA World Cup.

Bagley’s decision was revealed Sunday, two days before he was to report to El Segundo, California, for the second week of training camp. Bagley was not immediately replaced, and unless that changes the U.S. will have 16 players still in the mix for 12 final roster spots.

The New York Times first reported Bagley’s decision to withdraw.

Bagley was on the select team – younger NBA players brought in to compete against national-team candidates – last week in Las Vegas, and earned a promotion to the national team Friday night following USA Basketball’s intrasquad scrimmage.

Sacramento still has two players left as World Cup roster candidates, with Harrison Barnes and De'Aaron Fox headed to camp this week. Boston has four – Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton remain candidates, along with Brooklyn’s Joe Harris, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Denver’s Mason Pluelee, Houston’s P.J. Tucker, Indiana’s Myles Turner and San Antonio’s Derrick White.

Lowry (thumb surgery) and Smart (calf strain) are both dealing with injuries, with clarity on their situations expected to come early this week. The Americans will practice at the Lakers’ facility Tuesday through Thursday, then face Spain in Anaheim, California on Friday night.

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

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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.

Las Vegas NBA win totals for next season are out. Here are three bets worth your money.

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Las Vegas bookmakers are good at this: The win totals — the under/overs on how many wins a team will get next season — get you thinking “I could see that.”

Now that the dust has settled on the NBA summer (for the most part) Ceasers Palace Sportsbook put out its win totals for next season. Here they are, in order of highest to lowest:

Milwaukee Bucks 57
LA Clippers 55½
Philadelphia 76ers 54½
Utah Jazz 52½
Houston Rockets 52
Denver Nuggets 52
Los Angeles Lakers 51½
Indiana Pacers 48½
Boston Celtics 49½
Portland Trail Blazers 47½
Golden State Warriors 47
Brooklyn Nets 47
Toronto Raptors 45
San Antonio Spurs 43½
Miami Heat 43½
Dallas Mavericks 41
Orlando Magic 40½
New Orleans Pelicans 39
Detroit Pistons 37½
Sacramento Kings 37
Atlanta Hawks 36
Minnesota Timberwolves 35
Chicago Bulls 30½
Washington Wizards 28½
Oklahoma City Thunder 28
New York Knicks 27
Phoenix Suns 27
Memphis Grizzlies 25½
Cleveland Cavaliers 24
Charlotte Hornets 24

The Bucks and Clippers deserve the top spots, on paper they are the best teams heading into the season. The depth of the West, where 12 teams at least have legit playoff dreams, makes these numbers harder. Both Brooklyn and Golden State are at 47 wins, the Warriors will be the better team this season but in the West those wins will be harder to come by.

Here are what I see as the three best bets on the board:

1) Toronto Raptors over 45. Toronto is going to take a step back without Kawhi Leonard, but that number is way, way too low. Toronto went 17-5 without Leonard last season, and 10 of those games were the second night of back-to-backs. They were 4-5 against playoff teams and that includes wins over Golden State and Indiana without their Finals MVP. This is still a good team in a weaker East they are still going to be pushing 50 wins, especially with Pascal Siakam being a year older and OG Anunoby returning to the lineup. The only concern here is a mid-season sell-off of Kyle Lowry and others, but as it stands this is easy money.

2) Dallas Mavericks under 41. There are just too many questions here: How does Kristaps Porzingis look after missing a season with a torn ACL (and did you believe in him in the first place)? What kind of shape does Luka Doncic come back in and how much of a step forward does his game take? Will guys like Delon Wright and Seth Curry knock down enough shots to keep defenses honest? I like the way the Mavericks are building, I think there is real potential here, but in a deep West, I just don’t believe this year is their year to make a leap forward.

3) Detroit Pistons over 37.5. They won 41 games last season, they made moves this season that make them marginally better, and the top of the East got weaker. The Pistons are a slightly better than .500 team, not one you want to bet on to get past the first round, but 38 games? Blake Griffin gets them there.

 

Mason Plumlee added to Team USA player pool (Montrezl Harrell, too, but he’s already out)

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The story of Team USA’s 2019 FIBA World Cup roster in a nutshell: USA Basketball announced Montrezl Harrell and Mason Plumlee were added to the player pool. Less than an hour later, Harrell put out word he probably wouldn’t play.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Many stars swiftly turned down Team USA for this year’s FIBA World Cup. More accepted an invitation to try out then withdrew. Now even Harrell is out.

Who’s in?

Here are the players slated to attend training camp, with rough positional designations:

Point guards

Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)

Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)

Combo guards

Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)

Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics)

Wings

Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)

Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)

Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)

Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)

Big forwards

P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets)

Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls)

Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)

Centers

Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)

Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)

Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)

Julius Randle (New York Knicks)

Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets)

Plumlee is an odd addition (except considering his connections). That’s so many centers – especially because USA Basketball also invited Harrell, another center. It seems original selections Lopez, Drummond and Turner could hold down the position.

The Americans could use more backcourt depth. J.J. Redick, who just signed with the Pelicans, might provide it.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

As an excellent outside shooter, Redick could fill a valuable role.

USA Basketball also announced the select team, a group of young players that practices against the senior squad:

At this rate, maybe a select-team player or two will make the final World Cup roster.