Twelve spots are up for grabs for the USA Basketball roster that will compete in the FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Of those 12, at least half are all but guaranteed. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving are part of a core group that can plan on bringing their passports to New York, when training camp ends later this month and the team heads to Europe.
But for Gordon Hayward, among others, his status is uncertain. The Utah Jazz’s 6-foot-8-inch forward has had a solid week at Team USA’s training camp at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center, doing what has been asked and performing consistently.
But with a roster that’s deep with wing forwards, it might take something extra for Hayward to stand out. That’s why the USA Basketball Showcase Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage at 6 p.m. today at the Thomas &Mack Center is crucial for bubble players such as Hayward.
Camp began Monday with 19 players. There are now 20 with the addition of 6-11’ center Mason Plumlee, who had been with the USA Select Team, on Thursday.
“When the lights go on, I think that’s an important time for some of these guys to show us how they perform,” said Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of USA Basketball and the national team’s managing director. “If somebody goes out there and knocks somebody out with their performance, that’s a big factor.”
Hayward said he will approach the game the same way he approached practices — play consistent and try not to overextend his boundaries.
“I think I’ve played well this week, and I’ve competed,” Hayward said after a light Thursday workout. “Where that puts me in making the team, I really don’t know.”
Hayward said he won’t put any extra pressure on himself tonight in the ESPN nationally televised game.
“We’ve been scrimmaging all week, so this won’t be any different,” he said. “Just a few more fans.”
Along with Hayward, other players on the bubble are DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Paul Millsap, Damian Lillard, Kyle Korver and Chandler Parsons. Colangelo said the plan is to reduce the number to 15 after tonight’s game, meaning five players won’t join the team when training camp resumes Aug. 14 in Chicago.
Hayward could be a tough choice for the staff. He has been involved with USA Basketball the past three years, first as a member of the Select Team, which helped the 2012 Olympic team prepare for its gold-medal run in London, then as a member of the team that went through a minicamp last year in Las Vegas, where he had seven points, three assists and three steals in the Blue-White game.
“It has been valuable,” Hayward said of the equity he has built with the national team. “Not only did I get to know about the coaches and what they want, but they know me and what I can do.”
Colangelo said equity does help someone such as Hayward. So does his versatility. Hayward can play three positions, including power forward in the international game.
“It’s something I’ve done before,” he said, noting that in his college days at Butler he sometimes guarded bigger opponents. “It’s a different game here than the NBA.
“The spacing is different. The game is built more around the 3-point line. So I’m comfortable playing out there or down low if need be.”
He’s also comfortable with his NBA future. The Jazz matched a four-year, $63 million offer sheet by the Charlotte Hornets to keep Hayward, a restricted free agent.
“It feels good they think enough of me to keep me,” Hayward said. “It’s a little bit of a relief.”
He’ll be more relieved if he is part of the second phase of training camp.
“From day one, they tell you to be the player you are and do the things that got you invited here,” Hayward said. “That’s all I’ve been trying to do each day — play as well as I can.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.