LOS ANGELES — Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has a theory about why so many NBA players declined invitations to play for Team USA at the upcoming FIBA 2019 World Cup: potential embarrassment and injury.
“I think other guys looked at it like, ‘Why would I go and potentially be the face of a losing roster?’” McCollum told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on The Woj Pod. “Or the workload part. If we all play, the workload is less — 20-25 minutes, you get blowouts, you’re moving on. A lot of guys don’t play, your minutes might go up, your usage might go up, and that affects your summer as you go into March when that crash comes.
“January is where that crash comes before the All-Star break and then after the All-Star break, guys start to break down in March and April. Those extra miles and summertime hours … I’ve led the league in miles or close to it every year, I don’t want to run around in Australia or China and then come back and have to get ready for the season when I can be strategically planning my workload.”
The 27-year-old McCollum, a six-year veteran who recently signed a three-year, $100 million contract extension with Portland, said that he expects to see players “… start to choose happiness over a lot of different things.”
Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters this week at training camp in Las Vegas that he isn’t concerned about the guys who are not present and instead is focused on who is.
“I’ve said that we’re going to be fine and by that what I really meant is that we’re blessed with a lot of depth in USA Basketball,” he said. “All of the players here want to be here, there’s no question about it. And that’s a big part of the battle itself. And so, when you look at the enthusiasm, the youth, the athleticism and versatility, that’ll really work well for us because our depth will be a factor.”
Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker is one of those players. He said he’s happy for the opportunity to vie for a spot on the final 12-man roster.
“This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of us,” said Walker, an All-Star Game starter in February who relocated from Charlotte to Boston via free agency in July. “I think a lot of us are happy those guys pulled out because this is our chance. It’s our chance to get on the big stage and showcase our talent. A chance for us to do something new. It’ll be a new-look team. Everybody is kind of doubting us, but I think we’re hungry.”
Among the NBA stars who opted not to participate were Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris, Trail Blazers guards Damian Lillard and McCollum, San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, Houston Rockets guards James Harden and Eric Gordon, New York Knicks forward Julius Randle and Los Angeles Clippers guard Landry Shamet.
The FIBA World Cup runs Aug. 31–Sept. 15 in Shanghai, China. — Reuters