The Boston Celtics will most likely find themselves in an unprecedented predicament with the upcoming FIBA World Cup, beginning on August 31. Because the 2020 Olympics are next summer, a lot of superstar players named to Team USA’s training camp roster have withdrawn their names to focus on the upcoming NBA season.
James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard are among those electing to play for Team USA next summer to avoid two straight years of a heavy time commitment on their bodies.
The mass exodus from the FIBA roster has opened the door for four members of the Celtics to get the opportunity to represent their country in China next month.
Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown are now all on Team USA’s training camp roster, where they will each compete for a spot on the final 12-man squad. The current list of camp invitees looks like this:
Kemba Walker, BOS
Kyle Lowry, TOR
Donovan Mitchell, UTA
Marcus Smart, BOS
Khris Middleton, MIL
Jayson Tatum, BOS
PJ Tucker, HOU
Harrison Barnes, SAC
Jaylen Brown, BOS
Kyle Kuzma, LAL
Myles Turner, IND
Andre Drummond, DET
Montrezl Harrell, LAC
Brook Lopez, MIL
Thaddues Young, IND
Julius Randle, NYK
Mason Plumlee, DEN
That’s 16 for those of you who don’t feel like counting, which means four aren’t going to make the trip to China. If I had to guess right now, the odd men out would be Barnes, Plumlee, Randle and Young. I took three away from the bigs section because it would probably best suit this version of Team USA to play small and fast. Plus, I like Harrell and Turner playing a lot of minutes with this group.
The World Cup ends on September 15, and if the U.S. is playing in the finals for this tournament as they should be, that only leaves less than a week before training camp begins. Should the Celtics be worried that arguably their four most important players this season might be overworked from the commitment to Team USA?
I’m going to go with no. They shouldn’t be worried, because the positives far outweigh the negatives here.
I know, I know, what if any one of them gets injured early in the year because they’re fatigued from playing with Team USA. While I understand that line of thinking, I don’t think it’s realistic.
At the time when these four Celtics would be playing with Team USA, NBA players aren’t sitting around resting their bodies for the 82-game grind. They’re ramping up their workouts, playing more 5-on-5 ball to get them mentally and physically ready to do it against the best in the world.
Will the intensity of that work be a little higher in China, sure. But it’s not all that different from what they’d already be doing to prepare for the upcoming season. Not only that, but the kind of basketball they’d be playing would have so much more value than playing against some scrubs in a gym.
If you were gearing up for one of the more important years of your career, what would you rather do? Play 5-on-5 against mostly random guys your trainer sets up along with drills where there’s no defender, or play on a team coached by Gregg Popovich where there’s more competition at practice than there is in the tournament?
The answer’s easy for me, and based on the issues the Celtics had last year jelling as a team, giving four of your most important players a chance to get experience playing team basketball together before training camp starts is a substantial advantage. Especially when Smart, Tatum and Brown will have to learn how to play with Kemba anyway.
I get the worry about injuries. They can derail a season and reshape franchises overnight. Hell, we’ve already seen it happen two years ago. But you can’t worry about injuries because they’re almost always freak accidents that can’t be foreseen or avoided. Yes, playing hurt is avoidable, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. These are four healthy players.
Here’s something else I didn’t mention. No matter how many of them make the final roster, we won’t have to wait until October to get to watch some Celtics basketball. Aren’t you chomping at the bit to see all four of these guys play without the cloud of last season hanging over their heads?
All I’m saying is, chill out, have fun watching them, and only worry about what you can control.