USA Basketball Forges Ahead Without Paul George
Derrick Rose takes a shot during during a USA Basketball showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center on Aug. 1, 2014 in Las Vegas.
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski are whittling down the U.S. roster for the upcoming FIBA World Cup.
In some sense, they may have to rebuild it.
The pair unveiled their revised 16-man roster Tuesday, trimming three players four days after completing a weeklong training camp in Las Vegas. The camp culminated Friday with an intra-squad scrimmage during which Indiana Pacers guard Paul George broke his right leg in a gruesome injury while attempting to block a drive to the basket by James Harden. George had to be carried from the court and his injury early in the fourth quarter ended the game, the camp, and cast a bit of a pall over the gathering.
“We needed a few days to let some time go by,” Colangelo said.
With George recovering from surgery and set to be released from the hospital in the next day or so, Colangelo said, the team has had some good news and is preparing to go forward.
It will do so without Bradley Beal and John Wall of the Washington Wizards and Paul Millsap of the Atlanta Hawks, who were cut heading into the second phase of training camp Aug. 14-16 in Chicago. Four more players will need to be shed before the team begins the FIBA World Cup in Spain Aug. 30 to Sept. 14.
“In our communication with the players, they’re all on board,” Colangelo said during a teleconference with reporters Tuesday. “They recognize injuries and sports go together. We all have experiences we can talk about. Players are lost in practice, in games, in pick-up games. I personally have experienced it in my 45 years in NBA.”
Since the initial 19-man roster was announced July 14, the team already had experienced some upheaval. Kevin Love and Blake Griffin withdrew and Brooklyn Nets forward Mason Plumlee, Wall and Millsap were added. But George’s injury jarred the team.
“It does affect us,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s a guy who would demand significant minutes, not just on any team, but the U.S. team. When you lose a player of that caliber, you take a hit. He was a team member willing to do the dirty work. He’s an exceptional guy who will to do anything for his team to win.”
Krzyzewski doesn’t think it will make his players shy or indecisive.
“I don’t think it will have a lingering affect,” he said. “It could be the opposite. They could go after it even harder to honor Paul. I don’t think they’ll need motivation. They’re ready and want to do something to honor Paul. I think they’ll be ready to go. The reaction I’ve gotten is that they’re anxious to get going. They feel obviously very, very badly. He’s part of the group, part of the brotherhood.”
The group that will reconvene in Chicago include guards DeMar DeRozan of Toronto, Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City, Houston’s Harden, Kyrie Irving of Cleveland, Damian Lillard of Portland, Derrick Rose of Chicago, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry of Golden State; forwards Anthony Davis of New Orleans, Kenneth Faried of Denver, Gordon Hayward of Utah, Kyle Korver of Atlanta, Chandler Parsons of Dallas and Plumlee; and centers DaMarcus Cousins of Sacramento and Andre Drummond of Detroit.
Of the players on this roster, Durant, Davis and Harden were all members of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team that won the gold medal in London in 2012.
Krzyzewski said his next task in Chicago will be to build a core group of seven-to-nine players who will get most of the minutes. After three days there, including a friendly against Brazil, the team will move to New York for more training and two friendlies against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Then it’s off to the Canary Islands and a two more days of practice and final preparation game against Slovenia.
“Not everyone is going to get equal playing time,” he said. “In the last Olympics, only three guys averaged 20 minutes a game. Going forward, you have to figure it’s going to be the same. You have to see who fits in and with limited minutes. How do the remaining three-four guys fit in? How do they complement the core eight. We’ve had success doing it that way. We’ll try to figure it out in the next couple of weeks.”Brian Trusdell is a writer from New Jersey. He has covered four FIFA World Cups and six Olympic Games during his more than 30 years as a sportswriter, mostly with the Associated Press and Bloomberg News. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.