The 2019 FIBA World Cup will take place in China in August, and one of the big stories of the summer has been the tremendous number of NBA stars to turn down invites to play for Team USA in order to keep their focus on the upcoming season.
Team USA’s top veteran players for the upcoming World Cup will be Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, and Khris Middleton, all three All-Stars, but there aren’t any truly elite stars that said yes to playing. That’s led to some discussion about whether Team USA should shift their philosophy for the World Cup away from trying to bring in top veteran players and instead use it as a chance to get valuable experience for young players who could be the future of USA Basketball in a few years.
While Team USA is the hardest hit by the trend of players declining to play, they aren’t alone — and, also, benefit from having the deepest pool of players to choose from. Team Canada will be without Andrew Wiggins and Tristan Thompson for the World Cup, and their most promising incoming NBA rookie, R.J. Barrett, is now also out for the World Cup due to a lingering calf injury suffered during Summer League, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Barrett will join Canada for training camp and team activities in Toronto. He's had a decorated young national team career — being one of youngest players to represent Canada, participating in competition the last four summers and helping the program qualify for World Cup. https://t.co/K54giU0tUx
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 1, 2019
As Shams notes, Barrett will still be around the team for training camp in Toronto, which isn’t a big surprise given that his father, Rowan, is the general manager for Canada’s men’s national team. It’s a big loss for Canada, as Barrett was expected to have a starring role on the team, but risking further injury heading into his rookie season isn’t a risk worth taking.
It will be interesting to see how national teams that often rely on NBA stars — of which there are only a few — adjust to what seems to be a growing trend of players passing on playing in World Cup action. What’s clear is that top stars don’t see it as a competition with enough value to their legacy to put their upcoming season at risk, and that likely won’t change any time soon.