After an embarrassing showing in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, there clearly needs to be added emphasis in USA Basketball’s selection process
USA Basketball blew it and they lost to France in the quarterfinals of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. This was a shock to anyone who knows what a basketball is, as the United States has the most talent in the NBA and continually dominates the sport internationally.
Many will say it’s because we took a less talented roster. We did. We knew we were going into this tournament with a lesser roster than the ones we fielded before.
The real reason Team USA will go home without the gold is we allowed players to come and go as they pleased. They knew that they could still be on the Olympic Team next year. That’s where the team fell apart. Our players don’t care about anything on the international stage except the Olympics.
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Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum (injured), Joe Harris, Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell, Mason Plumlee, Marcus Smart, Harrison Barnes, Kemba Walker, Derrick White, and Myles Turner made up the USA roster for World Cup of Basketball. All are fine basketball players, some are All-Stars, some are projected to be All-Stars one day and a few are key rotation guys.
The players above have the ability to make a USA roster, even if it included James Harden and LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Plumlee and White might be the only two outliers when it comes to missing the roster completely if we sent an all All-Star roster.
Even some of the lesser talent on the roster are still good players. While Joe Harris falls short of an All-Star, he is one of the elite shooters in the NBA. Harrison Barnes has played big minutes on packed Finals teams (with the Golden State Warriors) and Marcus Smart is a lockdown defender.
The trouble Team USA has fallen victim to is how casual they made the roster. Players are allowed to join and leave whenever they want to.
Many players used the excuse “I want to prepare for the next NBA season” by working out in a gym alone, instead of playing against elite players in practice and a rising level of international talent.
Team USA is not a priority for many players. Now that the current roster has lost, many will see it as an opportunity. Players will want to join to bring back the glory of USA Basketball, to represent their country in the Olympics, and to earn a gold medal in Tokyo. One can already imagine the commercials and motivational Instagram posts these players will drop next summer.
Next Summer, will have all eyes on the USA Men’s Basketball team as they reclaim what is theirs. The top spot in the world. Cameras will follow them around as they soak up the sights and wonders of Tokyo.
They didn’t feel like it was important this year. Because of their status? Half the roster of the current team is 25 or younger. This team could improve a whole lot by next year. Tatum could be an All-Star this year and so could Brown and Barnes.
Team USA has an opportunity to put its foot down and be more strict with the roster. The coaches should have to select the players not just make a roster through the way of which players eventually say “fine I’ll stay.”
We could have a new version of the “Redeem” team from 2008. The 2008 team featured four players from the 2004 Olympic team that fell short and went home with Bronze Medals.
We should take some of this talented roster and infuse it with players who had legitimate excuses for missing this tournament. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson missed because of injury. Bradley Beal missed because of the birth of a child. There are players out there who would kill to be on this roster.
We can not allow players to just miss tournaments to prepare for a season that is still a month away. Next year the Olympics will be a month earlier than the World Cup this year. It will only be played in Tokyo compared to eight different cities in China. Both of those things will make it dramatically easier to play. It should not be easier to be selected because of your name or your brand.
We need to make sure we find players who jump at every chance they get to pull on a USA jersey. Saying “I want to prepare for the next NBA season” is code for “I don’t want to play in International games that are not the Olympics.” Well, it shouldn’t be that way anymore.