USA Basketball announced its final roster for the World Championship on Tuesday, with Rajon Rondo removing his name from consideration.
The 13 players on the roster had all shown over the last five weeks that they can contribute, and the final cut was going to be a difficult one, but in the end, it appears that USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and chairman Jerry Colangelo didn’t have to make that decision.
“Rajon came to us and said he was going to withdraw from the team, that he had some family matters to attend to and some things to take care of before the NBA season,” Colangelo said in the team’s press release. “He did an outstanding job during our training, we appreciate the effort and commitment he made to our program and he completely has our support.”
Rondo had started the team’s scrimmage against China last Saturday, as well as its first two exhibition games. But he was replaced in the starting lineup by Russell Westbrook for the second half of Saturday’s game against Lithuania, and by Derrick Rose for Sunday’s game against Spain. In fact, he didn’t play at all in that thrilling 86-85 victory in Madrid.
It had always appeared that guards Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon and Russell Westbrook were the players on the roster bubble, but all three played well enough to earn their spots on the roster.
A pest for opposing ball-handlers, Rondo was ideal for Krzyzewski’s pressure defense, but he was the worst shooter among the six guards left on the roster. And he has been careless with the basketball at times.
Krzyzewski also replaced starter Tyson Chandler with Lamar Odom for the game against Spain. The original starting lineup of Rondo, Chauncey Billups, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Chandler was very strong defensively. But with to non-shooters (Rondo and Chandler) on the floor together, that unit struggled to score. In its first three warm-up games, the U.S. averaged just 14.3 points in the first quarter.
- In a closed scrimmage against China, they scored on just three of their first nine possessions.
- Against France, they scored on just five of their first 17 possessions.
- Against Lithuania, they scored just four times in 21 first-quarter possessions.
But against Spain, with Rose and Odom in the lineup, the early offensive struggles were minimal. They scored just once on their first five possessions, but followed that with a stretch of six scores on seven possessions and finished the quarter with a 23-16 lead.
The U.S. will play its final exhibition game before the World Championship on Wednesday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN), taking on Greece in Athens. Greece, the team that knocked off the U.S. four years ago in Japan, has looked very strong in exhibitions and is clearly one of the favorites to win gold.
The final roster for the World Championship, which begins Saturday, looks like this:
Guards: Chauncey Billups, Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook
Forwards: Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Danny Granger, Andre Iguodala
Centers: Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Lamar Odom
Though there’s no more worries about being sent home, Curry, Gordon and Westbrook are still likely competing for the back-up guard spots in the rotation.
How about we get to some mail?
From Kipp (Parts Unknown):
Dropping a note to say we need to check out the assists… 11 assists [against Lithuania]? Won’t work in int’l hoops. Won’t win many games ANYWHERE with 11 in 40.
Keep up your great work
The lack of assists is definitely something I noticed. Through their four games, the U.S. has just 66 assists on their 129 field goals, which is a pretty low ratio (51.2 percent). In fact, 29 of the 30 NBA teams had a higher ratio last season.
You can blame Rudy Gay (since the Grizzlies were the only team with a lower ratio), or wonder if the scorekeeper in Spain was more frugal than Zach Randolph when it comes to handing out dimes. After all, assists are the most subjective stats in the boxscore. And against the U.S., Lithuania had just 10 assists on 25 field goals and Spain had just 15 on 28.
From Jose in Madrid:
Why do you think Coach K hasn’t selected more centers? Why not select young players like Paul Millsap? I think the American Team is a very good one, but very undersized in my opinion. I don’t know if it’s because the coach likes running game, or may be big good players weren’t avaliable and he chose getting very good players, although they were a little small.
It’s all about availability. Krzyzewski and Colangelo did select more centers. David Lee, Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez and Amar’e Stoudemire were all in the original pool of players when the team first got together in Las Vegas, but three of them were gone by the first day of camp, and Brook Lopez (recovering from mono) wasn’t able to make it past the first phase of training.
If they had lost just two guys and were down to only one center, then you can say they made a mistake. But you can’t really plan for four departures at one position.