Friday, August 16, 2019

It's decision time for Gregg Popovich, as Team USA takes on Spain

Team USA will head to Australia on Saturday following their friendly against Spain's entry in the FIBA World Cup Friday night.

Current NBA players, Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Willy Hernangomez and Juan Hernangomez will match up against a USA team that suffered an embarrassing 36-17 loss to a Select Team mostly made up of G-League players just two days ago.

Gregg Popovich currently has a 15-man roster that will need to be trimmed down to 12 prior to their trip "Down Under."

This is the current roster, as of August 16 for Team USA:

Kemba Walker
Khris Middleton 
Harrison Barnes
Kyle Kuzma
Brook Lopez
De'Aaron Fox
Donovan Mitchell
P.J. Tucker
Mason Plumlee
Myles Turner
Derrick White
Marcus Smart
Jaylen Brown
Joe Harris
Jayson Tatum 

The Celtics 4-man "Team Shamrock" remains intact, and it appears that Pop will certainly go with Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, especially after they both led Team USA to a win during last week's scrimmage in Las Vegas. Marcus Smart has been out of action with calf tightness, but my guess is that Popovich wants Smart's versatility, defense, energy and intensity to lessen the chance of another lethargic performance by Team USA.

Jaylen Brown still remains a question mark as one of the three team members that could get the ax. For his sake, and that of the Celtics, I hope not. From the time Brown was drafted by Boston back in 2016, he has seemed to be the victim of introspection, thinking too much and not simply reacting on the court. If Brown were to be cut from USA Basketball - having to leave his teammates behind as they battle for a victory for their country - it could be a major blow to his confidence as he approaches a contract season.

So which three players might be casualties when it comes to decision time? Joe Harris may be one of them. Mason Plumlee and P. J. Tucker could also complete the trio heading home. I don't see Smart getting cut unless his calf issue persists. The Spurs Derrick White is a possible candidate for deletion, despite performing well as of late.

As for Jaylen Brown, I think he needs a decent showing against Spain. He didn't exactly excel in last week's intrasquad scrimmage, and he'll definitely need to get his offense going as well.

Team USA will host Spain at the Honda Center in Anaheim, beginning at 10 PM.

Stay tuned for coverage of Team USA and Popovich's final roster decisions.

** Update**

As of 4:30 PM EST, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that Rockets forward PJ Tucker has withdrawn from Team USA Basketball due to an ankle injury.

Tom Lane

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