After a very disappointing effort from the USA’s “C” team, basketball fans were left reeling about what will happen next for USA basketball. The 1992 Gold Medal “Dream Team” was 27 years ago … and the main players on the 2008 and 2012 gold medal teams are either retired, not playing USA basketball anymore, or injured (in KD’s case). The sense of “pride” American-born players have for the United States is not what it is for other countries. Players like Marc Gasol and Ricky Rubio feel true honor when playing for their home country of Spain. The same goes for Rudy Gobert for France and former-NBA player Luis Scola for Argentina. Look at the way Australia gets behind their team … and how upset they are when they lose (cue Andrew Bogut screaming “google where FIBA headquarters is” … which I still don’t understand. I mean it’s close to France, but it’s not that far from Spain). When you watch the way other countries play and react to international basketball, representing their home country feels like a big deal … because it is. After finishing in 7th place in this past FIBA World Cup, two American stars are finally getting the message.
The first star is Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, who told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he would like to play in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Curry, who will be 32 by the time the 2020 Olympics comes around, told Nichols he wants to play stating, “I’ve never been on the Olympic Team. I’ve been on two World Cup Championship gold medal teams, but the Olympics is the experience that I want.”. The second is Blazers superstar Damian Lillard. “Dame Dolla” told the Australian newspaper News.com.au that he wants to play in 2020 as well. Lillard said, “I plan on being a part of that (USA basketball). I plan on playing.”, and that is great news.
Curry and Lillard are two of the best guards in the NBA today and are ideal for international play. They both have can shoot from anywhere. If Steph and Dame end up playing on the 2020 Olympic team, which seems like a “sure thing”, it would open the flood gates for the other superstars to join back in. Curry is likely to recruit his teammates Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, and if Durant is healthy enough, he would be welcomed back with open arms. KD was one of the leaders on the 2016 Olympic team and key player in 2012, so if KD wants to play, he’s there. Harden did not play in 2016 or in FIBA, but he did win gold in 2012. There are plenty of talented American guards that want to play or can play. Team USA needs good forwards and there are four or five players that currently play in Los Angeles.
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma is already on the Team USA roster, but really this is about Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James. Paul George won a gold medal in 2016, so he would be another player that is welcomed back, as long as he is healthy. PG has been rehabbing the last two summers, so Team USA might be on the back-burner. Kawhi has never played competitively for Team USA – only in the showcase game, so it’s hard to determine what he will do (like usual). For Anthony Davis, this would be a 2nd shot at a gold medal after winning gold in the 2012 Olympic Games. I think if AD is healthy, he commits. As for LeBron, this will be his 3rd shot at a Olympic gold medal after winning in 2008 and 2012. Lebron will be 35 years old next summer, but he’s still one of the best players around, and the thought of winning a 3rd gold medal might be too appealing to resist.
There are other talented players that will most likely get invited to Team USA camp. Guys like Zion Williamson and Devin Booker will most likely be invited. Former Olympians like Jimmy Butler and the aforementioned Warriors-duo of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green would be huge additions in 2020. While I don’t want to get ahead of myself … it seems like Team USA in 2020 will consist of an “A “or “A-” squad, which should be good enough to compete for gold. The world is getting better at basketball every day, but they’re not better than us.