It’s been rumored since last week that Jazz star Donovan Mitchell would be selected for Team USA’s training camp. On Monday, it happened.
Mitchell is among the 20 NBA stars who have the chance to impressive USA Basketball executives from Aug 5-9 at the training camp in Las Vegas. The team will be coached by Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs head coach, while former NBA executive Jerry Colangelo is managing director of the squad.
The 22-year-old guard was one of six players added to the USA National Team roster, along with former University of Utah forward Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers), Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks), Paul Millsap (Denver Nuggets), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics) and P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets).
Fourteen other players were already named to the roster: Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers), and Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets).
Only Mitchell and Kuzma are new to USA Basketball; the other 18 players all have national team experience. Colangelo explained why he selected Mitchell in a conference call with reporters Monday.
“He hit the NBA regular season as a rookie and never looked back. He showed that he could compete with the very best. He has pretty good size, he has quickness, he’s very athletic,” Colangelo said about Mitchell. “The thing that we’re looking for is defense, and he has the ability to be a real factor. That could be the best way for him to make a roster spot, is to play incredible defense.”
As for Kuzma, “he made a mark for himself in the Chicago pre-draft camp, and really benefitted himself,” Colangelo said. "He went into the NBA and has shown a lot of improvement in L.A., despite the fact that they’ve had their troubles on the court team-wise. You look at his strengths, and his ability to play a few positions, size, shooting ability, range, versatility, and he’s a tough guy. You need toughness in this competition.”
From this 20-man roster, USA Basketball coaches and executives will select 12 to participate in this year’s FIBA World Cup, taking place from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15 in China. Team USA will play two warmup matches on Aug. 22 and 24 against Australia — featuring Mitchell’s Jazz teammate Joe Ingles and rival Ben Simmons — in Melbourne. They’ll play one more preparation game Aug. 26 against Canada in Sydney before flying to China.
In the World Cup, the team was drawn into Group E, along with Czech Republic, Japan and Turkey. Popovich said that USA Basketball had spent months scouting their opposition, along with the likely best players to make their way through to the knockout rounds.
“We respect these teams more than you know,” Popovich said. “This is a different game in many respects than what we see in the NBA.”
Now, the responsibility is to choose the best team for international competition. That doesn’t necessarily mean the 12 best players, or the 12 players who play to the highest level during training camp. Those in charge of USA Basketball don’t want a repeat of the my-turn, your-turn play that has sometimes plagued the team.
“(It’s about) who really loves the challenge, who really wants to do this. We have to form a unit that wants to, so to speak, fall in love with each other very quickly, wants to play for each other,” Popovich said.