Team USA should survive without Love, others
Several notes and thoughts on Team USA, which opens camp Monday in Las Vegas:
1. No Kevin Love. No LaMarcus Aldridge. No Blake Griffin. Well, there go the NBA’s top three power forwards. But it’s probably no reason for panic. The U.S. has a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things.
2. According to a USA Basketball statement, Love won’t be playing "because of his current status." That status? A guy who’s been at the center of intense trade rumors since, oh, early June. With reports LeBron James would be thrilled to have Love join the Cavaliers, those rumors are at an all-time high. So, yeah, it makes sense if the Timberwolves star isn’t entirely focused on helping his country win a gold medal.
3. As USA Basketball chairmen Jerry Colangelo told The Associated Press: "(Love) wants to play, but it’s a little bit of a sign of the times when you look at the league in terms of contracts, rumored trades. All of those circumstances put players in a funny position."
4. Colangelo is right. Putting international teams together today is quite different than the days of Michael Jordan and the 1992 Dream Team. Back then, things such as websites, blogs and social media didn’t exist. Now, there would be almost no way for the likes of Love to escape the constant barrage of questions. Sitting this one out is probably good for Love’s sanity.
5. OK, so what’s left in the frontcourt? Plenty, actually. DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond are three up-and-comers in or near the pivot, and Paul Millsap accepted an invite to camp Sunday. Millsap is an excellent example that a "combo" type of forward can have success in the NBA. He’s never been overly powerful, but the the guy averaged 10.9 rebounds (along with 19.4 points) in the Hawks’ recent first-round playoff series vs. the Pacers.
6. I’m guessing Cousins, Davis, Drummond and Millsap all make the team — although much of it, clearly, depends on the preferred style of Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Kenneth Farried can also help on the boards. At any rate, any coach anywhere will tell you that you never can have enough bigs.
7. Perhaps no competition at camp will be as interesting as the one taking place at point guard. Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Stephen Curry and a healthy Derrick Rose form one heck of a quintet.
8. At shooting guard, it’s Paul George, James Harden, DeMar DeRozen, Bradley Beal and Klay Thompson. At small forward, it’s Kyle Korver, Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward and reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant.
9. Basically, I sure would hate to be the guy who makes the cuts. Of the 19 players in camp, seven will be sent home. But as is the case every year, it doesn’t mean you’re one of the seven worst. Coach K and his staff just have to come up with the 12 who play together best.
10. The Team USA campers will train Monday through Thursday at UNLV, then play a showcase game Friday night. Those selected for the team then will set up shop in Chicago on Aug. 14. The U.S. will face Brazil in an exhibition contest Aug. 16 at the United Center.
11. After that, it’s off to New York for more practice and two more exhibition games: Aug. 20 vs. the Dominican Republic and Aug. 22 vs. Puerto Rico. Both of those matches will be held at Madison Square Garden.
12. The U.S. departs Aug. 23 for Spain and the 24-team FIBA World Cup. Basketball’s World Cup runs from Aug. 20 to Sept. 14. The winner automatically qualifies for the 2016 Olympics. Everyone else must earn their way in the Olympic qualifying tourney next summer.
13. I’ll have news and notes on Team USA every day there’s a practice, scrimmage, etc. So be sure to keep checking back.