Why are American NBA stars skipping the FIBA World Cup?


Why are American NBA stars skipping the FIBA World Cup? Almost every big name star is sitting out the tournament, and only some of them have obvious reasons for doing so. USA Basketballs senior mens team is losing steam at an alarming rate. In the past few weeks, the roster expected to defend the United States FIBA World Cup championship this summer in China lost its two biggest stars, and , and two key shooters in and . Just before this piece was published, withdrew , according to Yahoo! Sports Chris Haynes. Former FIBA stars like , , , , , , , , , , and were already out for various reasons. In fact, of the 11 Americans on the All NBA team this past season, only two are currently slated to participate in the World Cup: and Kemba Walker. There were 20 NBA All Stars this season who are eligible for USA Basketball service. Only four remain on the roster: , Walker, , and NBA champion , . Heres what the depth chart looks like going into camp after the recent pull outs. Guards: , Walker, , . Wings: , , , , . Bigs: , , , , , . is the teams best talent. Four of the five best players on the team are guards. Keep in mind that five years ago, was cut from a World Cup roster because Team USA had so many stars. The player that got Lillards spot? Derrick Rose. Welp. How times have changed, for Lillard and especially for USA Basketball. Theres no good answer for why this is happening. The senior mens team has its best coach ever in Gregg Popovich. Steve Kerr and are assistant coaches. The opportunity to spend a couple of months with that coaching staff, both stateside and overseas, sounds like a dream. Contrary to popular belief, the World Cup actually is important even though American fans dont pay much attention: the clearest way to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics tournament is to finish top two among Western Hemisphere teams in the World Cup. Now, Team USA is still talented enough to easily finish top two among the seven North American, South American, and Caribbean teams Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, United States, and Dominican Republic . Most of those teams have also suffered some attrition due to retirements, NBA commitments, and injuries. And if something wild happens and the United States really falls apart, theres a last chance tournament before the Olympics next summer, at which point the stars could come out and clinch a spot fairly easily, one would imagine. In fact, the United States is still the overwhelming favorite to win the World Cup, even with this stripped down roster. The senior mens team hasnt lost a tournament game since 2006, when the U.S. finished third under Mike Kyrzyzewski in the reboot tournament after the embarrassment of the Athens Olympics in 2004. Serbia and Spain are Team USAs biggest rivals for the title, and since has announced he will play for Greece, you cant count out the team that beat the Americans in 2006. But yes, USA Basketball is the huge favorite, even without , Davis, and everyone else. The question here is, why they are without everyone else. Theres no security or health issue keeping stars away, as there was in Athens 2004 terrorism threats or Brazil 2016 Zika virus . The host nation is China, still NBA stars favorite foreign market to pitch. Popovich is well liked and known to more NBA stars than Coach K had been. There hasnt been a major injury suffered in international tournament play or preparation , and that didnt seem to have a huge impact on the 2016 Olympic roster. Is it complacency? As mentioned, the Americans havent lost in a tournament in more than a decade. Wounded pride sparked American NBA stars to participate beginning in 2006. Theres no wounded pride on the world basketball stage at this point. Is that a necessary component to getting a higher level of commitment from the best players? Is it a lack of pre existing friend groups and cliques? From 2006 through 2012, the senior mens team was defined by the LeBron Wade Melo Bosh crew. Around 2014, we saw the sprouting of the friendship that rocked this summers . Lillard is fully committed to Portland for the next half decade. Walker is off the market. , , and , if he gets added to the team, are on rookie deals. None of these players seem all that connected together. Its a pretty random group. Is it pressure from teams? There hasnt been any public suggestion of that. Its possible that given the enormous contracts being doled out these days, there has been behind the scenes requests by teams to skip the summer. Or, perhaps players are doing the math themselves. Is it politics? Is the allure of proudly wearing U S A across your chest less appealing now than in, say, the years 2008 through 2016? That might be true, though 2006s high level of star participation sticks out, and the presence of Popovich and Kerr should calm fears of being misunderstood on the world stage. Is it the fact that USA Basketball has not stuck to its guns on requiring stars to eat their vegetables playing in the FIBA World Cup, which most American fans and merch buyers dont care about to get their dessert playing in the Olympics, which tons of Americans watch and love ? Is it the timing of the tournament at the end of the NBA offseason? The World Cup championship game is Sept. 15. There are preseason games the first week of October. Its likely some combination of these factors, personalized for each star player. But whatever the case, this is easily the weakest Team USA has been heading into a major tournament since 2004 maybe even 2002, when the Americans finished sixth as a host nation and its exactly what Jerry Colangelo and the leadership of USA Basketball has worked to avoid over the past 15 years. Dame, Kemba, Pop, and the others will probably still cover the United States in basketball glory. But it wont be as easy as it could have been, and its worth figuring out why its heading back in this direction. See Full Schedule

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