Team USA has been whittled down to 15 players and JaVale McGee, along with Gerald Wallace, OJ Mayo and Tyreke Evans, has been sent home. ESPN’s Chris Sheridan is calling the omission of McGee a mistake. I call it inevitable, but Sheridan has a point. He writes:
He brought a unique skill set to a team hurting for size, he was an insurance policy in case Tyson Chandler (who missed 68 games the past two seasons due to injuries) gets hurt or gets into foul trouble, and he was the perfect 12th man candidate in that he might be needed for only 5-6 important minutes during the entire World Championship, but those could be the very 5-6 minutes that make or break this team’s fortunes.
Still, the method of cutting McGee makes sense. When I broke down McGee’s performance in the Team USA scrimmage last Saturday, I speculated he wouldn’t make this round cuts so that Coach Mike Krzyzewski and team director Jerry Colangelo could evaluate more talented players, on the perimeter where the abundance lies this go-around, before deciding which 12 players would compose the final roster.
Without the big guns this summer, Coach K needs the best players, and not necessarily those with the current basketball discipline level of McGee. Yes, JaVale brings unique skills to a potentially high-need area. But there are more unifying factors amongst the talented that might benefit Team USA in the long run.
Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay, from the announced intent of Coach K, might have to play out of their element at the four spot. Chauncey Billups will have to slide over to the two. It’s all about sacrifice, the clear theme that’s arisen since Krzyzewski took over coaching duties for America’s international basketball program.
And as individuals make personal sacrifice, the team must do so as well — sacrificing risk at the center position. It’s hard to truly outline why potentially self-inflicted barriers might actually create a more positive team environment. But without the ability of foresight, I like the idea — working with better players as opposed to the crutch of a backup center.
I, surely like many of you, am not a fan of Duke. Setting that aside, there isn’t a coach I would trust more at the helm of team America. If this is part of Coach K’s plan, so be it.
As far as JaVale McGee, he’s being watched, noticed … and that’s a good thing. Colangelo said:
He’s very raw, he’s very young, he’s a real babe in terms of game experience and he has a real future. So that’s really how we left it with him: Keep working on your game and you may get a call sooner rather than later.
It’s a good thing because that young babe now knows where hard work can get him. He’s received instruction from more bright basketball minds about where his game needs to go.
But even getting cut comes with greater expectations. Now JaVale is going to get back to work and continue to make strides on the improvement we’ve already seen. With a muddle of folks at other positions for the Wizards, McGee will have a chance to shine in the true test of his game that is this upcoming season.