Let’s face it: the US national team didn’t do as well as expected at this year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup. USA Basketball originally selected 35 players to represent the country at the tournament in China this summer, yet only four of them were actually part of the US squad: two were dropped after the Las Vegas training camp, and 17 of them withdrew. The US was represented by Brook Lopez, Derrick White, Donovan Mitchell, Harrison Barnes, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Joe Harris, Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton, Marcus Smart, Mason Plumlee, and Myles Turner. And the results were far from brilliant: they beat the Czech Republic, Turkey, and Japan in the group stage, Greece and Brazil in the second round, lost to France in the quarter-finals, and beat Poland but lost to Serbia in the classification games. Ultimately, the Spanish national basketball team won the tournament, followed by Argentina, and France in the medal positions – the USA came seventh, outdone by Australia, Serbia, and the Czech Republic.
Many of the players who backed out of the 2019 Basketball World Cup commitment have, in turn, expressed interest in joining the USA squad at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Miami Heat player Jimmy Butler announced at his introductory conference in Miami that he would “most definitely” consider joining the USA squad at the Olympics next year. The Lakers’ Anthony Davis did the same, saying that he does want to play USA Basketball – he already has plenty of experience in international basketball competitions, having played in the 2014 World Cup and the 2012 Summer Olympics. The Warriors’ Draymond Green also plans to play in the Olympics – actually, he looks forward to it, as he has his wedding planned around it. The Rockets’ James Harden, the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, and the Warriors’ Stephen Curry have also expressed their interest and enthusiasm to represent their country in Japan next year – the latter was cautious about making a commitment, though, because of the constant threat of an injury. Understandable, considering the early point in the season.
The Clippers’ Paul George was a bit more moderate in expressing his enthusiasm for joining the USA squad in Tokyo next year. “I would love to. Hopefully, god willing, I can get through a season healthy. And when that time comes, I would love to be part of the Olympics and represent,” he told the ESPN. “But this comes first, obviously. And getting through this year, giving everything to this year. Hopefully, by June, we’re the last team standing and I’ll deal with it at that point.” Kawhi Leonard is also on the cautious side when it comes to committing to the Olympics – “I do want to play but I’m taking it one step at a time. And right now it is getting the Clippers to the Finals,” he sais. The Lakers’ LeBron James has a similar stance on the matter. “I don’t know. I would love to. … I will address that at some point”, he told reporter Dave McMenamin who shared his words on Twitter. He plans to speak to USA Basketball head coach Gregg Popovich at some point, McMenamin revealed.
Who has qualified for the Olympics already?
According to the rules of the Olympics, the host nation – this will be Japan next year – automatically qualifies for the tournament. Besides, the teams that finished the 2019 Basketball World Cup best from each FIBA zone also qualify automatically. Thus, the national basketball teams from Australia (FIBA Oceania), France, and Spain (FIBA Europe), Iran and Japan (FIBA Asia), Nigeria (FIBA Africa), and Argentina and the United States (FIBA Americas) have their spots assured at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
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