Team USA basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski trimmed his final FIBA World Cup roster to 12 men today. In dropping Damian Lillard, Kyle Korver, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward, the team clearly plans to play big in the international tournament.
The NBA game is largely dominated by players who excel at more than one position, but the international game is still a bit more specialized. That’s likely the reason Team USA cut Lillard, Korver, Parsons and Hayward from its roster.
Lillard, Korver and Hayward are all guards, while Parsons is a lanky small forward. In cutting the four Team USA hopefuls, Coach K opted instead to keep center Andre Drummond and beefier shooting-guard DeMar Rozan. Drummond and Rozan had initially been thought to be on the chopping block.
The starting five for the Team USA roster in the FIBA World Cup in Spain includes starters Kyrie Irving (Cleveland), Stephen Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston), Kenneth Faried (Denver) and Anthony Davis (New Orleans).
With Lillard, Korver, Hayward and Parsons staying at home, the Team USA reserves include Derrick Rose (Chicago), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento), Klay Thompson (Golden State), Rudy Gay (Sacramento), Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn), Drummond (Detroit) and Rozan (Toronto).
Team USA now has five big men to use in the international tournament: Drummond, Cousins, Plumlee, Davis and Faried.
Following Friday’s 112-86 domination of Puerto Rico by the U.S. team, Coach K said in his post-game press conference that he needed to have at least five and “possibly six” big men to get through the FIBA World Cup tournament in Spain.
His “possibly sixth” big man would be Rudy Gay, who could technically play the 4 internationally.
The now-final 12-man U.S. roster will fly Saturday afternoon to Spain. The team will play nine games between Aug. 30 and Sept. 14.
“Since taking over the USA Basketball men’s national team program in 2005, this was without doubt the most difficult selection process we’ve gone through,” said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo in a statement. “I also want to make it clear that this is not just about talent; each player is incredibly talented and each player offered us unique skills. In the end it was about assembling the best team, selecting guys who we felt would be able to best play the kind of style we envision this team playing.”
Lillard and Hayward did not play in Friday’s exhibition against Puerto Rico. Hayward’s exclusion was not unexpected, as he had learned earlier in the day that he would be left off the 12-man FIBA World Cup roster.
Neither Rozan nor Drummond saw minutes on Friday night’s game either. However, both men played well in a Wednesday night game against the Dominican Republic.
The final roster reflects a very different team than Team USA had initially expected to field in Spain. Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Russell Westbrook all pulled out individually, and Paul George suffered a catastrophic compound leg fracture Aug. 1 in an intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas.