NBA stars ‘evade’ Team USA

By Henry Liao July 24,2019
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NBA stars ‘evade’ Team USA

By Henry Liao July 24,2019
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WITH the withdrawal of Anthony Davis (LA Lakers), back-to-back National Basketball Association (NBA) scoring king James Harden (Houston), C.J. McCollum (Portland), Eric Gordon (Houston), Bradley Beal (Washington), Tobias Harris (Philadelphia), Damian Lillard (Portland) and DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio) from the training pool, the defending champion United States may be vulnerable to an upset in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup to be held in the People’s Republic of China from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.

From an initial training pool of 20 (excluding late invitee DeRozan), the list of players expected to attend the USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas from August 5-9 is down to 13.

Several players have been contacted to take the vacant spots. The list includes Marcus Smart (Boston), Jaylen Brown (Boston), D’Angelo Russell (Golden State), Julius Randle (New York) and Aaron Gordon (Orlando).

The USA roster eventually will be pruned down to 12 players just before the start of the biennial 32-nation, eight-group competitions that will also determine the seven countries (two from the Americas, two from Europe and one each from Asia, Africa and Oceania) – plus host Japan – that will qualify for the men’s basketball event in the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Notwithstanding their status as the reigning Olympic gold medalists, the Americans are not automatic qualifiers to the Tokyo Games although they need only to finish among the two from the Americas — which also includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela — to make it to Japan.

Those expected to attend the Team USA training camp are Kemba Walker (Boston), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee), Harrison Barnes (Sacramento), Kyle Lowry (from reigning NBA champion Toronto who underwent surgery last July 18 to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb – non-shooting hand – he suffered in the second round of the four-tier NBA playoffs), Kevin Love (Cleveland), Andre Drummond (Detroit), Myles Turner (Indiana), Brook Lopez (Milwaukee), Kyle Kuzma (LA Lakers), Donovan Mitchell (Utah), Jayson Tatum (Boston), Paul Millsap (Denver) and P.J. Tucker (Houston).

Love and Lowry may yet also withdraw down the road. Lowry is recovering from left thumb surgery.
Lillard and DeRozan were the last players to decline participation in the training camp and World Cup games last July 23. Beal and Harris withdrew the day before.

Beal, a 6-3, 26-year-old guard, is eligible for a three-year, $111-million maximum contract extension with the Wizards starting July 26 and may not want to jeopardize his financial status with an injury during the China junket if the offer is left on the table before that time. Beal has until October 21 to ink the contract extension, which will take effect in 2021-22. Beal and his wife also are expecting their second son during the World Cup preparations and competitions.

Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs will be the debuting head coach of Team USA, which is bidding to become the first country to win three straight World Cup titles (including 2010 when the event was still called the FIBA World Basketball Championship).

The assistant coaches on Popovich’s staff are NBA head coaches Steve Kerr (Golden State) and Lloyd Pierce (Atlanta) and Jay Wright from reigning NCAA titlist Villanova University.

The United States is bracketed with the Czech Republic (September 1), Turkey Sept. 3) and Japan (Sept. 5) in Group E.

The top two teams from each of the eight groups will qualify for the second round (Round of 16) with a round-robin format and results from their preliminary-round play (against their co-group qualifier) are carried over.

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The NBA’s “Superman” has fallen on hard times.

Last July 6, the Washington Wizards traded injury-plagued Dwight David Howard to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for forward C.J. Miles. This marks the fifth time in the last four years that the once-dominant Howard has been jettisoned by a team.

And his latest employer, Memphis, does not intend to keep Howard for long either. The club is looking to peddle the aging 6-11 center before the start of the 2019-20 season but has yet to find a trade partner for him so far due to salary-cap ramifications.

Any team that picks up Howard must honor his existing guaranteed contract that has a year remaining. On April 18, Howard had picked up the $5.6-million option in the second year (2019-20) of his two-year pact with the Wizards.

He could also be placed on waivers as it will save $3.1 million in salary-cap space for Memphis.

Howard, who turns 34 on December 8, says he is opening to playing for any of the two Los Angeles-based franchises, the Lakers or Clippers – who have been co-tenants at the Staples Center since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 wars – if and when the Grizzlies decide to waive or trade him.

That being said, current Lakers meal ticket LeBron James would not want to gamble on another head case in Howard. The temperamental and eccentric DeMarcus Cousins is enough a risk.

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