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Our FIBA World Cup Team will have zero star power.
USA Basketball is starting to look a lot like it did during the early 2000s. An era that featured some head-scratching rosters, leading to some very embarrassing losses.
In the past few days, players like Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, Tobias Harris, Bradley Beal, and CJ McCollum have all withdrawn their name from participating in training camp and the upcoming FIBA World Cup.
This list doesn’t even include guys like Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, and James Harden who had already decided to sit the tournament out.
It’s gotten so bad that even Zion Williamson said no, and he was only invited to attend training camp to be a part of the “Select Team,” which serve as the glorified scout team.
We’re now to the point to where we’re depending on Kevin Love to suit up and play. Because if he doesn’t, it means that Harrison Barnes could be the only player on the roster with any Olympic experience. And if you forgot, Barnes rode the bench during the 2016 Olympics, as he was coming off a dreadful NBA Finals performance that led to him getting traded out of Golden State. Barnes averaged 8 minutes per game in 2016, and was the lone member of that team that didn’t make the All-Star team the following season.
It’s that bad out here for us.
With this being the first international competition with NBA players that Team USA will compete in without Coach K running the show, all signs point to him being the sole reason why USA Basketball returned to glory.
Things started going bad back in 2002 when we finished sixth in the FIBA World Championships that were played in Indianapolis. Just two years after winning Olympic gold in Sydney, where Vince Carter gave us the greatest dunk of all time, things had fallen apart, as we sent out a starting lineup that included Paul Pierce, Antonio Davis, Ben Wallace, Andre Miller, and Reggie Miller.
Raef LaFrentz was on that team.
Two years later, we hit rock bottom.
In the 2004 Olympics, we took home bronze after losing three games in that tournament. It was a mess, as Larry Brown refused to play younger stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Dwyane Wade deciding to stick with veterans like Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion, and Lamar Odom, who had no chemistry.
It was then announced that Jerry Colangelo was coming in to take over as Chairman of USA Basketball, as he tapped Coach K to be in charge.
At the 2006 FIBA World Cup, we fielded a team that featured six members who would go on to play in the 2008 Olympic games in James, Wade, Anthony, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, and Dwight Howard, but we still wound up losing in the semifinals to Greece.
But then something clicked, and we never lost again as Coach K put together a 75-1 record as head coach of the National Team.
“I think that’s what I appreciate more than anything about Coach K. Coach K makes you really really understand and appreciate what representing your country is all about,” said James in the pilot episode of “The Shop.”
“He don’t even talk about basketball that much. He just talked about commitment, being there for your brother, fighting for your brother, being part of Team USA, being part of the United States of America, and what it means to represent the Red, White, and Blue.”
Draymond Green expressed the same sentiments in that episode even after allegedly being in Coach K’s doghouse during the Olympics due to some of his off-the-court antics.
“To start the gold medal game, hearing that (national anthem), standing on the podium. But even more so, when I hear it now, it means more to me,” said Green.
That was then, and this is now.
And now, teams outside of this country are winning NBA Championships. A few weeks ago, Canada released the names of who will be participating in their training camp for the World Cup. It was a list full of NBA players who are up-and-coming, including No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett.
“USA Basketball is making the case that NBA players often produce career years following offseason playing for national team. But this summer of World Cup, players prioritizing staying home to get better acclimated with teammates in an upcoming season without a clear-cut title favorite,” tweeted Yahoo Sports Senior NBA Insider Chris Haynes on Tuesday.
Free agency has presented a new obstacle for USA Basketball to hurdle. And while the Olympics are a year away, it will be interesting to see how this summer affects next summer’s games.
With only a few weeks left remaining until the August 12th deadline, USA Basketball will have to get creative when it comes to putting together a roster that can live up to expectations.
Which is why I would like to suggest someone who is a four-time Olympian, three-time gold medal winner, and two-time USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year.
His name is Carmelo Anthony and he has nothing but free time on his hands.