Where in the world is the team from the Beijing Olympics? Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Amare Stoudemire, just to name a few, will not be playing with Team USA at the World Basketball Championships in Turkey at the end of the summer.
Who will lead Team USA in Turkey? None other than the 2009-10 NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Durant became the youngest player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring when he averaged 30.1 points for the Thunder this past season, scoring 25 or more points in 29 consecutive games (the longest such streak by any active NBA player).
After getting cut for the first time in his life, Durant watched from his home, as Team USA made their way into the gold-medal game and then was tested by fellow NBA stud Pau Gasol of Spain. The U.S. ultimately took the gold with a 118-107 victory that ended an eight-year gold-medal drought for the senior U.S. men's national team. But the gold-medal drought for the U.S. in the FIBA World Championship remains intact, now at 16 years and counting.
Durant will lead and be the face of Team USA into Turkey with a cast of NBA All-Stars. Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski calls him the only player guaranteed to make the final cut. Durant might be the only player on the team thus far, but there are a slew of big men missing due to various reasons.
Durant has this to say to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, about being the face of Team USA, “Outside of the locker room, everyone says I’m the face, which is really untrue. But once we step in between these lines and in these team meetings, I think everyone is equal. That’s a great feeling to have and a lot of pressure off my back as well.”
Stoudemire is out due to insurance reasons with his new team, the New York Knicks. Ex-Knick, David Lee, left yesterday’s practice with a finger injury and will sit out the rest of the summer. With Lee and Stoudemire out, Team USA is left with New Jersey Nets’ Brook Lopez, Dallas Mavericks’ Tyson Chandler, Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love, Washington Wizards’ JaVale McGee, Los Angeles Lakers’ Lamar Odom and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Jeff Green as potential big man.
It was also reported by Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, that Lopez and Chandler were expected to make the team leaving a couple spots open. Team USA GM Jerry Colangelo said the loss of Lee and Stoudemire doesn’t ensure a sport for McGee but it helps out Green because he is a versatile Power Forward who can shoot.
The loss of the United States big men isn’t a huge concern because size isn’t the most important in international play. During the Beijing Olympics, Carmelo Anthony started at power forward for the gold-medal team, sharing time there with LeBron James. Durant, along with possible teammates Odom, Love and Rudy Gay could spend some time down low posting up.
The United States isn’t the only team missing key players and their big men. Germany’s and Dallas Mavericks’ All-Star, Dirk Nowitzki won’t be playing, along with Spain’s and two-time NBA Championship Los Angeles Laker, Gasol. Both will be sitting out to nagging injuries and a much needed rest.
Odom would be the sole remaining team member who has represented the United States in a major international tournament. He was on the disappointing team that lost three times in Athens 2004 when they went on to win the Bronze medal.
Here is my Team USA:
PG – Chauncy Billups
PG – Rajon Rondo
PG – Derrick Rose
PG/SG – Tyreke Evans
PG/SG – Stephen Curry
SF – Kevin Durant
SF – Danny Granger
SF – Rudy Gay
PF – Jeff Green
PF – Lamar Odom
PF/C – Kevin Love
C – Brook Lopez
C – Tyson Chandler
Left off: PG – Russell Westbrook, SG – OJ Mayo, PG – Eric Gordon, F – Gerald Wallace, F – Andre Iguodala, C – Robin Lopez
I left off Westbrook for three reasons: 1. Team USA needs a veteran leader and Billups makes people around him better. He is a natural born leader. 2. Rondo’s defense and open floor vision is one of the best in the game. 3. Rose is the explosive scorer from PG position that a team needs. He can drive to the hoop, get a easy bucket and draw the foul.
Cash Scott for Citadel Digital © 2010