Team USA enters the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo as the three-time defending gold medal winner, but is coming off a disappointing seventh-place finish at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, the worst finish ever in a major international competition by a team from the United States.
Despite finishing seventh in China, Team USA has already qualified for the Olympics, by virtue of being one of the top two finishers from the Americas region at the World Cup. Six other teams qualified based on their World Cup finish, joining the U.S. and host nation Japan in the field for Tokyo. Four more teams will earn a spot by winning four separate six-team qualifying tournaments that will be held next June.
2020 Olympics Schedule
July 26-August 2: Group stage
August 4: Quarterfinals
August 6: Semifinals
August 8: Gold-medal and bronze-medal games
Who's in, who's out
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said 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. Of the 35 players originally selected for the U.S. player pool, only four went to China for the FIBA World Cup.
Players to withdraw: Marvin Bagley III (Kings); Bradley Beal (Wizards); Anthony Davis (Lakers); Andre Drummond (Pistons); De'Aaron Fox (Kings); Eric Gordon (Rockets); James Harden (Rockets); Montrezl Harrell, Clippers; Tobias Harris (76ers); Kyle Kuzma (Lakers); Damian Lillard (Blazers); Kevin Love (Cavaliers); Kyle Lowry (Raptors); CJ McCollum (Blazers); Paul Millsap (Nuggets); Julius Randle (Knicks); P.J. Tucker (Rockets).
Among players who weren't in China, many big names have already expressed their interest in returning to the roster in 2020:
• Jimmy Butler (Heat): At his introductory news conference in Miami, Butler said he would "most definitely" consider playing in the 2020 Olympics.
Butler played for USA Basketball at the Olympics in 2016.
• Stephen Curry (Warriors): "That is the plan, for sure. You know, obviously knock on wood, you don't want any injuries or things like that to interfere."
Curry played for USA Basketball at the World Cup in 2010 and 2014. He has not played in the Olympics.
• Anthony Davis (Lakers): "I want to play USA Basketball. If I get the opportunity to do so, if they invite me, I definitely would love to do so."
Davis played for USA Basketball at the Olympics in 2012 and at the World Cup in 2014.
•Paul George (Clippers): "I would love to. Hopefully, god willing, I can get through a season healthy. And when that time comes, I would love to be part of the Olympics and represent. But this comes first, obviously. And getting through this year, giving everything to this year. Hopefully, by June, we're the last team standing and I'll deal with it at that point. It doesn't really matter if we go all the way. As long as I'm healthy -- when I get to that point and I'm healthy, I'm in. I want to be part of that group."
George was injured playing for USA Basketball in the summer of 2014.
• James Harden (Rockets): "It's one of my goals to represent this beautiful country."
Harden played for USA Basketball at the Olympics in 2012 and at the World Cup in 2014.
•Kawhi Leonard (Clippers): "I do want to play but I'm taking it one step at a time. And right now it is getting the Clippers to the Finals.
Leonard has yet to play for Team USA in major international competition.
Team USA finished World Cup play with a win over Poland to finish seventh, their worst finish ever in a major event. Now what? Will superstars come to the rescue next summer in the Tokyo Games? Don't be too sure.
A third-place finish at the 2004 Athens Olympics wasn't just viewed as a failure -- it forced USA Basketball to rethink everything.
What does Gregg Popovich have left to prove? Putting together this team is a big lift. Leading it to an undefeated run and a world championship is a big ask, even for a living legend with an impeccable record and solid gold reputation. The risk/reward ratio is off. So why is he doing it?