Team USA Trims Roster to 15, Cuts Evans, Mayo, McGee, Wallace
Sources had told FanHouse on Tuesday that Sacramento guard Tyreke Evans, Memphis guard O.J. Mayo and Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace were expected to be cut. They all got the axe on Wednesday in addition to Washington center JaVale McGee. FanHouse had reported McGee was a fourth player likely worried about making it.
After a training camp last week in Las Vegas that included 19 players, the roster was trimmed to 15 for an Aug. 10-16 training camp in New York. The team must be down to 12 by Aug. 26, two days before the start of the World Championship in Turkey, which runs Aug. 28-Sept. 12.
"Our group of 19 did a terrific job,'' said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, who spent Monday and Tuesday calling all of the players who made it as well as those cut. "We really did have some difficult decisions. ... (The players not selected), each and every one handled that with dignity and class.''
Evans was a lock to be cut after he had suffered a sprained left ankle July 20 on the first day of the Las Vegas camp and missed the final three practices and last Saturday's USA Basketball Showcase, an intrasquad game. He had told FanHouse last Friday he expected to be cut.
Wallace played poorly in the Showcase, shooting 2 of 6, including 0 of 4 from three-point range, for four points. He did not grab a rebound in 12 minutes. Mayo had played well, scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, but it wasn't enough to overcome what he had shown coaches in practices during the week. McGee had seven points and three rebounds in the game, but is still considered raw.
That leaves 15 players for the New York camp. They are Denver guard Chauncey Billups, Dallas center Tyson Chandler, Golden State guard Stephen Curry, Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, Memphis forward Rudy Gay, Clippers guard Eric Gordon, Indiana forward Danny Granger, Oklahoma City forward Jeff Green, Philadelphia swingman Andre Iguodala, New Jersey center Brook Lopez, Minnesota forward Kevin Love, the Lakers forward-center Lamar Odom, Boston guard Rajon Rondo, Chicago guard Derrick Rose and Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook.
Colangelo said there are a "solid eight or nine'' he and coach Mike Krzyzewski have in mind to make the final roster. That leaves about a half dozen on the bubble, and Colangelo said he told some players by phone they're in that category.
"Certain players were told they're right on the bubble and that New York is really very critical and important in terms of making the final roster,'' Colangelo said.
Colangelo wouldn't give a list of players who are on the bubble but he did say one definitely is Lopez, who recently overcame a bout of mono and struggled in Las Vegas. Others looking to be on the bubble to make the team include Curry, Gordon, Granger, and Green, although Curry looks to have a solid shot.
Locks for the team look to be Billups, Chandler, Durant, Gay, Iguodala, Odom, Rondo and Rose. That would leave Love and Westbrook as two who are looking good but might not yet be in the lock category.
Sources said Evans, Mayo and Wallace were considered rather soon to be the first three cuts. Then there was a debate about how many centers to bring to New York, with Lopez's health being a factor and also that McGee, while he played well in Las Vegas, is said by Colangelo to be "very raw.''
Lopez was brutal in the game in Las Vegas, scoring two points and grabbing no rebounds in 13 minutes. But Team USA officials know how talented he is and want to give him another chance.
"Brook Lopez, we were not aware of was coming off mono when he came into camp and certainly struggled throughout the camp,'' said Colangelo, who said Lopez now has two weeks before New York to get in better shape after his illness resulted in him losing 25 pounds before gaining much of it back. "We're giving him the benefit of the doubt. He knows he has an awful lot to show in New York to be under consideration to make this team. But he wanted very much to have that shot and opportunity, and we're willing to do that for him. ... When somebody has that type of attitude, you're going to give them a little bit of rope.''
While McGee got cut, Colangelo indicated there's a chance he could be called back. With Chandler and Lopez left as the only true centers on the roster, McGee could be available in an emergency.
"We left it with him, 'Keep working on your game and you might get a call sooner rather than later,''' Colangelo said. "You don't know. We're playing that by ear. But he put in a good effort for us last week.''
Krzyzewski is prepared to play small ball. With Colangelo saying it's possible the Americans, if Lopez doesn't produce in New York, could keep just one true center in Chandler, Krzyzewski plans to utilize Odom, normally a power forward, some at center.
"We don't have big guys, a lot of them,'' said Krzyzewski, whose team lost big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Al Jefferson when they pulled out a week before the Las Vegas camp and then lost Amar'e Stoudemire to insurance reasons and David Lee and Robin Lopez to injuries on the first day of practice. "We have a lot of perimeter guys. ... We're not going to pick somebody up in a trade or anything like that. These are our guys, and we feel good about them.''
Krzyzewski said Team USA sometimes will have lineups with three guards. It won't be uncommon to see two point guards on the floor at the same time, with Billups, mostly a point in the NBA, in line to play a good bit of shooting guard.
Before having to get down to 12 on Aug. 26, the day the Americans arrive in Turkey, Colangelo said Team USA might take one or two extra players to Europe. The week before arriving in Turkey, Team USA will play two exhibition games in Spain and one in Greece while also practicing in both countries.
In 2006, the Americans took Washington guard Gilbert Arenas and then-San Antonio forward Bruce Bowen to Asia prior to the World Championship in Japan. They were cut to get the roster down to 12, and both were disgruntled.
"I've already had that conversation with a few players,'' Colangelo, who did not name the players, said when asked if he has any worries about such a scenario happening again. "I know the commitment with those players. They'd give everything to stay with us as long as possible to be part of it. So the attitude is fantastic.''
But those players will have a chance to get off the bubble when the team reconvenes in two weeks in New York.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson