The FIBA Basketball World Cup will be held in Beijing, China, and the United States’ team has been the center of attention as the opening tip-off for the global event. Two-time defending champion USA is looking to be the first team to win three consecutive FIBA World Cups.
But the road to victory this year won’t be as easy as it’s been in the past when numerous NBA stars elected to sit out the tournament. While it’s a high honor to wear one’s country’s name across their uniform as a player selected to participate, declining an invitation to play is a smart decision from the athlete’s standpoint.
Being on the U.S. squad isn’t beneficial for many of the NBA’s top-tier players. Since they’ve established themselves, they’re increasingly aware of the importance of managing their bodies for the NBA season. Playing in this tournament is risky for players, as injuries are always a possibility. Look no further than Team USA’s Las Vegas scrimmage in 2014 where Paul George broke his leg. Rest and recovery also play a factor, as NBA training camp begins a couple of weeks after the tournament’s final on Sept. 15.
This isn’t the biggest stage on which Team USA basketball plays. It’s not as appealing to players as the Summer Olympics, which only comes around every four years. The Tokyo Summer Olympics will be held in 2020, and participation remains a prestigious honor. This opens the door for teams like Spain or Greece — both with talented NBA players — to make a run at the FIBA title. Meanwhile, the U.S. team will be depleted of its many All-Star players.
Each player has their own reason for not wanting to be on team USA, with the primary concern being load management. Players are more focused on the upcoming NBA season. All-NBA talents James Harden, Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard have withdrawn from the Team USA roster. Added to that list are high-level players such as Tobias Harris, Bradley Beal, C.J. McCollum, DeMar DeRozan, JJ Redick and Eric Gordon.
Anthony Davis is focused on the upcoming campaign with his new Lakers team, according to Yahoo Sports. Bradley Beal and his wife are expecting their second child during the dates for the tournament. No. 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson will also not suit up for Team USA. In Williamson’s case, he’s dealing with a legal issue and is priming his body for his debut season in the NBA.
The most recent de-commitments are five-time All-Star Kyle Lowry, two-time All-Star Andre Drummond and Montrezl Harrell.
Team USA fans may be fearful that the roster doesn’t have the dynamic style of play to dominate the way they’ve done in years past. But even with the significant number of top-flight players not accepting the invitation to be coached by Gregg Popovich in China, the team is still in talented hands. Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton, Kevin Love, Paul Millsap, Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee and P.J. Tucker will likely be on the roster to grace the court in Beijing. Rising stars like Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma highlight the remainder of the roster. This “B-Team” is deep and well balanced, which should make for exciting tournament play.
Overall, the rewards for the elite NBA players simply don’t outweigh the risks. This is the right choice since sitting out allows them to manage their offseason play at a time where the FIBA World Cup and the Olympics will be held in back-to-back summers. Without many superstars on Team USA’s roster, the road to success won’t be as easily navigated as the previous two years. Nevertheless, the team is laced with talented performers, many of whom will be getting their first chance to play basketball on the world stage.
This will be a positive result for both the NBA and USA Basketball, as the younger players get the opportunity to show their skills on the worldwide stage and develop their game even more. This is a great challenge, too, for the first-time USA head coach Gregg Popovich to put together a cohesive and successful team without most of the NBA’s biggest American stars.
The choice of NBA superstars to not play for USA Basketball in the FIBA World Cup shouldn’t be too destructive for the 12-man roster the coaching staff had to assemble by August 17. Going forward, expect to see players continue to opt out, to preserve their careers in the grueling and physically demanding world of the NBA.
Contact Alex Raphael at email@example.com. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.