Ever since Jerry Colangelo took over USA Basketball after the Athens Olympics debacle, Team USA has been injected with a sorely-needed dose of glamour. Rather than it being an obligation that many superstar players do their best to get out of, it’s now seen as an honor and privilege. It’s also an exclusive club that is highly selective about its memberships.
But only in certain instances. One thing both Colangelo and USMNT coach Mike Krzyzewski have preached over the years is that they’re not assembling an All-Star team. This might be true for lesser international competitions like the FIBA World Cup of Basketball last summer. But when you look at the last two Olympic rosters, they’ve both represented 10-12 of the very best players in the NBA.
It gets a bit more complicated when you start examining the slots available by position. Take the point guards, for instance. Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Russell Westbrook all have previous international experience. Given that level of pedigree, there’s little-to-no chance that John Wall makes the team over any of those players, and he admitted as much in a recent interview with Ben Standig of CSNWashington.com:
“I’m just being honest,” Wall continued. “Chris Paul has already won one (Olympic gold medal). Steph Curry had an amazing last year and just won the World Cup. Kyrie just won the World Cup. Russell will probably be on the team. They’ll use him as a two-guard.
“So, I probably won’t make it.”
But you could make a reasonable case for Wall over two of those positions. Wall is a better passer and defender than Irving and is probably a bit better distributor than Westbrook as well as being arguably just as good defensively. The problem with Irving is purely nepotism (as a former Duke player under Coach K) and at least a little bit of the star power factor when it comes to Westbrook. Admittedly, however, a big problem is that Wall isn’t as lethal a scorer as either of those two, particularly when it comes to outside shooting, which is a major boon in international competition.
Still, he deserves a legitimate chance at competing for a roster spot. However, that won’t happen if Colangelo opts to forgo another minicamp next summer and instead decides to simply hand-select a team. Kobe Bryant could also potentially gobble up another roster spot, despite the fact that he did not participate in the supposedly mandatory minicamp in Las Vegas last week that both Colangelo and Coach K have insisted is a prerequisite to be eligible for the Olympic team.
Just like the NBA All-Star Game, there’s always going to be snubs, and a certain amount of disillusionment will inevitably go along with that. Damian Lillard, for example, didn’t even bother attending the camp after being cut from the World Cup squad last summer. Wall was similarly jaded after also getting cut last summer yet now seems to have a much healthier perspective on the matter.
“I think it was a good look anyway,” he said of participating with Team USA. “Great group of guys over there. (USA Basketball director) Jerry Colangelo, Coach K. …All those guys are great people.”
A lot can happen between now and next summer, but in the meantime Wall is probably better off just focusing on helping his Wizards take the next step in contending for the Eastern Conference crown next season.