Whenever the U.S. men’s national basketball team gets ready to compete on the world stage, the words “flexibility” and “fluid” are always used when it comes to creating a roster.
This time, it’s the upcoming FIBA World Cup, which will be held Aug. 30 to Sept. 14 in Spain. The winner of the tournament gets an automatic berth into the 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And when Team USA convenes in Las Vegas July 28, it will be with 19 players, led by the Kevins — Durant and Love. The training camp roster was announced Monday and there were a few surprising omissions.
LeMarcus Aldridge, who many believed would have a significant role for Team USA, is not on the roster. Neither is Kawhi Leonard, the defensive specialist. And John Wall, who was expected to be one of the primary guards, is also absent.
“We were told they would not be available,” said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo. “In Leonard’s case, it was a long season and he needed rest. In Aldridge’s case, he advised us he wouldn’t be available.”
But there’s no lack of depth on the roster. The backcourt has many familiar names, led by Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Steph Curry and Derrick Rose. Yes, the same Derrick Rose who has missed almost all of the last two years with the Chicago Bulls because of a knee injury.
Rose has been in Las Vegas working out with the Bulls’ summer league team that’s competing this week and according to Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski, he is anxious to have Rose on the floor.
“We’ve heard he’s in great shape,” Krzyzewski said. “Derrick is a great guy and loved representing his country (Rose played for the USA at the 2010 World Championships). Hopefully this will launch him to have great NBA season.”
USA Basketball added DeMar DeRozan and Chandler Parsons to the 19-man Las Vegas roster. Both are versatile and have international experience. In fact, all 19 players have represented the country in international competition. And it is that experience and depth why Colangelo decided to give veterans LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul this summer off.
“We never expected those players to participate in this camp,” Colangelo said. “But to maintain continuity, we need turnover for every competition. For this tournament, one-third to half of the team will have been a gold medalist from the last competition or two. And just because someone isn’t here this summer, that doesn’t mean they are out of the picture for 2016. They certainly will be under consideration for Rio.”
Colangelo said the final 12-man roster probably won’t be decided until the team leaves for Spain.
“Las Vegas is only the first of three parts of the process,” Colangelo said. “After Las Vegas, we have a week or two off and then we head to Chicago. After that, we go to New York. We’ll probably get down to 15 by the time we get to Chicago and go from there. We’ll take the entire month to evaluate.”
But it’s safe to say both Durant and Love will need their passport.
“It’s a new team and I think we’re going to have to lean heavily on the guys who have been there for leadership, primarily Durant and Love,” Krzyzewski said.
The Las Vegas training camp, which will be held at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center July 28-31, is closed to the public. There will be an opportunity to see the team Aug. 1 in the USA Basketball Showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center. Tickets for the intra-squad scrimmage are on sale at the Thomas & Mack box office and online at UNLVtickets.com.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.