USA Basketball thinking ahead after disappointing World Cup

Associated PressBoston Celtics guard Kemba Walker pulls on his jersey during the USA's loss to Serbia in the FIBA Basketball World Cup on Thursday.

DONGGUAN, China — USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said Thursday that when the time comes to start assembling the 2020 Tokyo Olympics roster, he won’t forget those who backed out of commitments to play in the World Cup this summer.

Of the 35 players originally selected for the U.S. player pool, only four are in China for the World Cup. The U.S. lost to France in the quarterfinals, ending a streak of seven major international tournaments — four Olympics and three World Cups — where the Americans captured a medal, the last five of them being gold.

“I can only say, you can’t help but notice and remember who you thought you were going to war with and who didn’t show up,” Colangelo said. “I’m a firm believer that you deal with the cards you’re dealt. All we could have done, and we did it, is get the commitments from a lot of players. So with that kind of a hand you feel reasonably confident that you’re going to be able to put a very good representative team on the court.

“No one would have anticipated the pull-outs that we had.”

The U.S. lost again to Serbia on Thursday, and will finish no better than seventh — the worst finish ever by an American men’s team in a major tournament. The previous worst was sixth at the 2002 world championships, and the U.S. coaches with this World Cup team insist that in terms of return on effort invested this group deserved better.

“It’s a great, great group of guys who are competing,” U.S. assistant coach Steve Kerr said. “They’ve been so committed to each other and the process. You take a lot of pride in that and you’re disappointed for them. But this is life.”

Many players cited schedule concerns as a reason to not play this summer, while others are dealing with injuries and some are acclimating in advance of joining new teams when training camps start in less than three weeks. The new international schedule is a challenge as well, with the World Cup and the Olympics in consecutive offseasons for the first time since 1967 and 1968.

More than 50 players were part of the U.S. World Cup plan at one point or another. Of those, 12 went to China, two got cut after the first week of training camp — and the other three dozen or so dropped out on their own.

“We’re going to let the dust settle, let things depress a little bit,” Colangelo said. “Obviously I’m always thinking ahead which means what’s going to take place, and it’s going to happen fast and soon because we just have to get our act together for the Olympics.”

The U.S. will go to Tokyo seeking a fourth consecutive gold medal, and getting stars to play on the Olympic team is rarely a problem. The World Cup team wasn’t exactly loaded with superstars — only two of the 12 U.S. players on the World Cup roster were All-Stars this past season, while nine of the 12 players on the 2016 Olympic team were coming off All-Star appearances.

Colangelo felt ankle injuries sustained by Jayson Tatum during the World Cup and Kyle Kuzma just prior to the tournament hurt the U.S. chances in China, noting that the team felt Kuzma was going to be a big help. But he insisted that he didn’t fault the effort of the players who made the commitment this summer.

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