NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Roster spots up for grabs at USAB Showcase? – The roster for the World Cup, which starts later this month in Spain, is not set. Sure, there are a few projected “locks.” But the rest of the roster is fluid. Some answers as to who fills out the roster could be gleaned from tonight’s USA Basketball Showcase in Las Vegas, where NBA.com’s very own John Schuhmann has been all week. He sheds some light on where guys stand heading into tonight’s showcase:
We won’t know the details of the roster reduction until Saturday at the earliest. Neither will the players, who’ve been left in the dark about their status all week. Colangelo, head coach Mike Krzyzewski and their staff will meet after the game, discuss and evaluate what they saw.
“This isn’t evaluating one individual and his game,” Krzyzewski said Thursday. “It’s about evaluating a group and how a group will go together. All these guys are outstanding players. It’s just a matter of how we feel they can mesh as a unit.”
The U.S. won’t necessarily cut the roster down to 12 when it departs for the Canary Islands (for four more days of training and an exhibition against Slovenia) on Aug. 23. They took extra bodies abroad in 2010 and could do so again.
“I’m not saying we are going to do that,” Krzyzewski said, “but we don’t have to have the 12 until the day before [the World Cup begins]. We’d rather have it done before, but we’ll see.”
Here’s how I believe the roster stands at this point …
There are six guys who, barring injury, will absolutely on the team as it opens pool play at the World Cup on Aug. 30. They are (in alphabetical order) …
Stephen Curry – Curry didn’t play big minutes on the 2010 team that won gold in Istanbul, but he’s blown up on the NBA level since. It looks like he’ll be the sixth man, though he could be a starter at either guard position.
Anthony Davis – The starting center and likely one of two guys who will play big minutes (around 30 per game, maybe more in the final). Though he barely played in 2012, his last-minute addition to that roster (due to a Blake Griffin injury) is turning out to be a blessing. That experience will go a long way.
“It’s one of those things,” Krzyzewski said Thursday, “where a really good thing happened even though something bad happened.”
Kevin Durant – Well, duh.
Paul George – The starting small forward alongside Durant. He’ll get the toughest perimeter defensive assignment.
James Harden – Likely the starting shooting guard, who will share playmaking responsibilities with Rose and Curry.
Derrick Rose – Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski have been downright giddy about what they’ve seen from Rose this week. He’s looked strong and in control, and his jumper is better than ever. It would be a real surprise if he isn’t the starting point guard against Finland on Aug. 30.
The other point guard
Colangelo told USA Today on Wednesday that it would be hard to keep more than one “pure point” on the roster, and labeled Rose, Kyrie Irving and John Wall as the true points in camp.
So it seems clear that one roster spot will come down to Irving vs. Wall. Irving is the more dynamic one-on-one player, but Wall is the better passer and defender.
Also, while Irving (35.8 percent) was a slightly better 3-point shooter than Wall (35.1 percent) overall last season, Wall was much better on catch-and-shoot opportunities. Wall had a 3-point percentage of 43.1 percent and an effective field-goal percentage of 60.8 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers, while Irving’s numbers were just 32.1 percent and 46.0 percent. Opponents will pack the paint and hope the U.S. Team is having an off night from the perimeter, so catch-and-shoot skills should be more important than pull-up skills with this team.
No. 2: Get real time for Eric Bledsoe — Frustrations are mounting in Arizona, where the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe remain far apart on what it will take to get the restricted free agent signed to a new deal. John Gambadoro of ArizonaSports.com penned an open letter to Bledsoe, providing his own ideas about what needs to be done, immediately, to rectify the situation:
OK, enough is enough. Time to get real here.
Memo to Eric Bledsoe — you need new representation. This Rich Paul is a joke and he is steering you down a slippery slope. I’m sure he told you everything you wanted to hear at the end of the season. I’m sure he told you that teams would be lining up to make you an offer and that a max contract of $80 million was well within reach. And when those things didn’t happen, he blamed the Phoenix Suns. The organization that believed in you, traded for you and gave you an opportunity that you weren’t getting backing up Chris Paul in Los Angeles.
Ask around, Eric. Talk to players in the league, teammates, former teammates, coaches and assistant coaches that aren’t based in Phoenix. You will be hard-pressed to find ONE that doesn’t believe the offer that Phoenix has on the table for four years and $48 million is an awesome offer. Trust me, I know. Because I have made those phone calls, dozens of them. And everyone that I spoke with thinks you’re borderline nuts for not jumping at this offer and giving yourself financial security for life.
You want to roll the dice and play for the qualifying offer of $3.7 million? Good luck. It’s a huge risk. You have had two knee injuries, you missed half of last season. And you may not be able to make back the money you are leaving on the table for this season.
Look, your agent doesn’t have a lot of experience, he’s a relative newbie riding the coattails of his buddy LeBron James. He doesn’t have many clients. He very well may be in over his head on these negotiations. From all I hear, he is a very nice guy but he hasn’t done anything in this business. And now he is making YOU look bad. First you say you are letting your agent handle it, but in the same sentence say the Suns are using restricted free agency against you. WHAT?
For the last 30 days, any team in the NBA had the chance to sign you to an offer sheet and not one team did. They are not scared off by the Suns’ remarks of telling the world they will match any offer, which is perfectly within their right. They are scared of giving a good player such as yourself money reserved for superstars. Yes, that is why you don’t have an offer. No one thinks you are a max player. Now don’t get me wrong, you are a very good player and any team would be happy to have you. Just not at the money you think you are worth.
So your agent overvalued you. It happens. You are not the first and you won’t be the last to think you are worth more than you really are. You should have gotten better advice, more realistic advice.
No. 3: No offer sheet for Pistons’ Monroe — Add Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe to that list of restricted free agents still waiting to see an offer sheet that forces some action from either Monroe or the Pistons this summer. Nearly a month into the process, he is still waiting to see an offer sheet. That has his frontcourt mate, Andre Drummond, thinking that they’ll get back to work alongside one another for the 2014-15 season. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press provides some details on Monroe’s situation:
Nearly a month into free agency, it doesn’t appear Monroe will get an offer sheet. If one came, the Pistons would have three days to match.
The sides could agree to a deal. Or the sides (and another team) could agree to a sign-and-trade.
And the threat is there from Monroe to sign a $5.4-million qualifying offer, play out next season and become an unrestricted free agent.
Monroe’s contract situation has been the No. 1 issue of the Pistons’ off-season, taking the spotlight away from free-agent signings of Caron Butler, D.J. Augustin and Jodie Meeks. The Pistons have agreements with free agents Cartier Martin and Aaron Gray, but have yet to announce the signings.
Butler, Augustin, Meeks and Martin will be a boon to one of the league’s worst three-point shooting teams — and also create room for Drummond, Monroe and Josh Smith to operate.
“Adding those guys boosts our percentages from the three-point line,” Drummond said. “We’re really going to space the floor out, not only for myself, but for Greg and Josh, too.”
No. 4: Beal still has something to prove — John Wall was a late addition to the USA Basketball group that has been working out in Las Vegas all week. His partner in the Washington Wizards’ backcourt, Bradley Beal, was named to the original 28-man pool that will provide the personnel for international competitions through 2016. And yet Beal is working daily with a chip on his shoulder. He feels he still has something to prove on the big stage, as Michael Lee of the Washington Post explains:
The largesse of the extended celebrations countered Beal’s laid back demeanor but, like the little hairs beginning to huddle on his chin, they were also acknowledgments that the kid is growing up.
“I feel older. My bones are starting to wear down now,” Beal said, cracking a smile. “Getting old, man, for sure.”
But this week, at Team USA training camp at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center, Beal is also out to show he is getting better while matching up in practice with all-stars and other rising talents in the game. Unlike last summer, when he was in Las Vegas as a spectator limited to shooting stand-still jumpers as he recovered from a stress injury in his right leg and watching Wall compete, Beal is often sharing the floor with his Wizards backcourt mate.
“It’s a great sign for our team, for us continuing to grow and it’s just showing that we’re constantly getting better and better and better,” he said. “We’re going to put on for the city of D.C., and for our families and the Wizards organization.”
Wall was a late addition after all-star Russell Westbrook withdrew, but Beal was named to USA Basketball’s original 28-man pool for international competitions through 2016 and is one of a handful of shooting guards, along with James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver.
“I’m excited for one, for them to actually give me a chance and showcase my talents this year,” Beal said. “It’s been good so far. It could always be a little bit better. I’m definitely happy to be here and hopefully, I’ll have a great opportunity to be with the team. I’m always going to continue to learn and continue to get better every day. Just in terms of my IQ and learning. Learning from these guys especially. Just picking their brain a little bit.”
Beal has a long history with USA Basketball, having led the United States under-17 team to the gold medal in Germany in 2011. But he is in a difficult position because the depth of quality point guards capable of shooting and playing off the ball puts him in direct competition with them for backcourt slots.
“It’s crazy because everybody can pretty much do what the other players can do, so it’s kind of like a toss-up and whoever coach [Mike Krzyzewski] wants to pick,” he said. “I’ve got to continue to bring that mentality that I’m a great shooter. I have to have that mentality that I can score the ball, drive to the basket, get guys involved and I can do pretty much all of the things these other guys can do. I’m just trying to stand out more.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Is there any love at all for Andrew Wiggins in Cleveland? … New Bucks guard Jerryd Bayless looks forward to learning from coach Jason Kidd … Metta World Peace still wants to win a title for Indianapolis … Thunder fans and observers are going to have a grueling two years on Durant Watch … There is plenty of cap space and many tough decisions ahead for the Utah Jazz