Barely 24 hours after losing Blake Griffin comes news that USA Basketball will be playing in the FIBA World Cup without Kevin Love, too. The stranded Minnesota Timberwolves superstar withdrew from consideration for Team USA today “because of his current status.” Thickening the plot even further? Fox Sports Ohio reports that Love has officially requested a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears has more on Love’s sudden decision to eschew international play just two days before the opening of training camp, including that USA Basketball won’t add any players to its pool of candidates despite the absences of Griffin and Love.
USA Basketball said in a statement that Love withdrew from the national team this summer because of his “current status.” Love is seeking a trade from Minnesota, and an injury during next month’s World Cup – or preparations for it – could impact negotiations…
Love expressed a commitment to play for USA in the 2014 World Cup last summer while standing alongside forward Kevin Durant and USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.
“The fact is we can only look to the players that we have available,” Colangelo said in a statement. “Our job is to get the job done with our very, very deep roster, and we’re anxious to get things started.”
Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, and Kenneth Faried are the only remaining, true frontcourt candidates for Team USA. Griffin and Love withdrew from consideration after LaMarcus Aldridge did the same almost two weeks ago – all three players were considered locks to make the FIBA World Cup Team. Kevin Durant and Paul George – similar shoo-ins for Mike Krzyzewski’s roster – will likely play more nominal power forward for USA Basketball as a result of its big man exodus, and the candidacy of Chandler Parsons, similarly versatile, stands a better chance, too.
Colangelo also told Yahoo that players from the USA Select Team will be considered for a senior roster spot “if someone rises to the occasion.” Miles Plumee, Mason Plumlee, and Cody Zeller are the Select Team’s big men, and Doug McDermott, Tobias Harris, and Draymond Green possess the requisite combination of size and shooting ability to potentially help Team USA given the group’s limited frontcourt options.
Multiple league sources told FOX Sports Ohio on Friday they are under the impression Love has relayed his desire for a trade to Cleveland to his agent. Love is represented by Jeff Schwartz.
Sources could not say for certain whether Love or Schwartz have made a formal trade request to the Timberwolves. Most believe if such a request is made, the Cavs will be able to obtain Love at a considerably cheaper cost than what is being discussed by the teams.
The Cavs and Timberwolves have reportedly talked about a deal that would send Love to Cleveland and team him with fellow All-Stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Sources have said Cavs rookie Andrew Wiggins has been a sticking point in the talks, as the Cavs are hesitant to surrender the No. 1 overall draft pick.
It is believed the Timberwolves have indicated they won’t trade Love unless they receive Wiggins as part of a package in return. Officials from the Cavs and Timberwolves have refused comment on the talks.
The ambiguity of Amico’s sources don’t change what has been believed since James announced his decision to return to the Cavaliers – that Love has zeroed in on Cleveland as his preferred destination. Most pertinent here is that Minnesota’s hands could be tied with regard to its demand for Wiggins if Love will only agree to re-sign with the Cavs once his contract expires. The 2012 Olympian has a player option for 2015-2016 and has maintained that he will exercise it and become a free agent if the ‘Wolves don’t deal him before February’s trade deadline.
The Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors are Cleveland’s top competition for Love. It’s safe to assume that neither team would risk dealing considerable assets for Love if it becomes apparent he will simply sign with the Cavs next summer, meaning that Minnesota’s best course of action could be accepting a package from Cleveland that doesn’t include Wiggins.
LeBron, Love, Irving, and Wiggins? Nothing is imminent, of course, but the completion of Cleveland’s dream core suddenly seems hopeful as opposed to impossible.
The World Cup begins on August 30th, though, and Team USA’s sudden dearth of frontcourt options that combine size with firepower should be of most immediate concern for NBA fans. Spain’s big man triumvirate of Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, and Serge Ibaka gave the United States fits in the 2012 Olympics, and now figures to be even more dangerous two years later.
In 2014, Team USA is no longer assured Gold by simply entering international competition; this is the double-edged sword of basketball’s globalization. And without Aldridge, Griffin, and suddenly Love, its standing as World Cup favorites is more tenuous than ever.
What do you think of Team USA’s chances without Love?
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