Following their disappointing performance at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Team USA will be looking to bounce back at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo after finishing seventh in this summer’s tournament.
While the team lacked firepower in China, that shouldn’t be an issue next summer, as several NBA stars have already verbally committed to the team.
Houston Rockets All-Star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook are the latest players to commit, as they both expressed their desire to play for the team next summer prior to preseason play on Tuesday morning.
“It would be an honor,” Harden said, when asked if he planned to play. “I would love to,” Westbrook added.
Harden and Westbrook are both better than any players that were on the World Cup team this past summer, but they’re not alone.
In addition to the two Rockets stars, two of the NBA’s other top point guards — Steph Curryand Damian Lillard — have also both said that they would like to suit up in Red, White, and Blue next summer.
“That is the plan, for sure,” Curry said of playing in Tokyo last month.
“You know, obviously knock on wood, you don’t want any injuries or things like that to interfere …
“[But I] definitely want to go. I’ve never been on the Olympic team. I’ve been on two World Cup championship gold-medal teams. But the Olympics is the experience that I want. And next year will hopefully be it.”
It’s not just guards that have expressed interest either. Los Angeles Lakers All-Star forward Anthony Davis has also thrown his hat in the ring after turning down the chance to play for the team this past summer.
“Last summer, there was just a lot going on with the trade, obviously a contract year, and there was a lot that I had to factor in,” Davis said in response as to why he passed on the World Cup.
“Next summer, hopefully I will make a decision about everything [regarding free agency] … so I think that was the biggest difference … I want to play USA basketball. If I get the opportunity to, and they invite me, I would definitely love to. Pop, I’m ready.”
The Warriors’ Draymond Green is also hoping to be selected for the squad, and he thinks that a lot of players will feel similarly.
“I do hope to play, and I think a lot of guys will want to play,” Green said in September.
“The schedule this year was a little treacherous with the games that was in America, and also the travel to Australia, which is why I think a lot of guys dropped out. You know, a long ways to China. It was just a lot, and it also leads right into the season. Those guys will be coming back in the next couple days and we’ll be two weeks away from training camp … I think you’ll see a lot of guys participating next year in the Olympics. And I hope to be one of those 12 guys.”
Even LeBron James hasn’t ruled out suiting up for Team USA next summer after being unhappy with how the team fared at the World Cup. For James, who is entering his 17th season in the NBA, his health will be the determining factor.
“I don’t know. I would love to,” James said of participating. “I have to, I want to stay healthy as well. That’s most important. I was not happy about how we did this summer.”
Verbal commitments aren’t set in stone, and things could certainly change for some of these players by next summer, but it’s certainly a solid sign that so many top-tier players are at least interested in playing following the poor player participation at the World Cup.