Representing USA Basketball
The Boston Celtics affectionately named the “Core Four” has made the first round of cuts for Team USA for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. The tournament begins on August 31st and will last two weeks. 32 teams from every continent will play in eight cities across China, a first-time tournament host. Team USA joins Turkey, Japan and the Czech Republic in Group E. Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart survived the first round of cuts after the first Blue v. White scrimmage Friday.
All four Boston Celtics played for Team Blue. Tatum scored 17 and secured four rebounds in 16 minutes played on 6-8 shooting, while Walker added 14 points and four assists in 16 minutes. Brown had two steals and hit both of his free throws in just over 11 minutes. Smart remained sidelined with a calf injury, but made the cut. In fact, Tatum and Walker clearly had the biggest impact despite playing the third and fourth most minutes, respectively. Perhaps most notable was Tatum’s obvious defensive improvements, which included quick recoveries from initial defensive breakdowns.
The Herd Thins
NBA stars to role players have been dropping out of consideration for Team USA quicker than players dropped out of the Los Angeles Lakers off-season plans. The NBA is as wide open as it has been in half a decade, which explains the mass exodus of players like Anthony Davis, James Harden and Damian Lillard. In fact, Team USA as presently constructed has only two All-Stars on it, including Walker (Khris Middleton).
Team USA still has plenty of star-power, including young stars Donovan Mitchell and De’Aaron Fox. The Blue v. White scrimmage contained 26 players. That roster was reduced to 15 after the scrimmage, and additional players dropped out of consideration. The final Team USA roster will be limited to 12 players; four of them could be the aforementioned Boston Celtics.
Team USA Strengthens Team Boston Celtics
Practicing together is one thing; playing in top-level international competition with each other is quite another. Several players on the roster have Team USA experience, while Walker was the named the FIBA U18 MVP in the tournament in 2008. Walker could likely lead Team USA again considering he’s one of their only two All-Stars and an All-NBA player in 2018-2019. This time Walker will be playing with his own teammates on Team USA. How many players can claim that?
The Boston Celtics time together and with the Team USA coaching staff is already paying dividends. In addition to leading all scorers in the Blue v. White scrimmage, Jayson Tatum showed vast improvements on defense. Jaylen Brown continued to display and polish his defensive capabilities. Kemba Walker has already shown he’s ready to lead a group of talented young players. The Boston Celtics involvement with Team USA basketball has been fruitful so far this off-season to say the least. These Celtics could even play teammate Daniel Theis if Team USA ends up playing Team Germany. Perhaps these Boston Celtics can help Team USA win the FIBA world cup made “almost entirely out of gold”. More selfishly, perhaps these Boston Celtics can help the Boston Celtics win a world title.