Who's Not at 2013 Team USA Minicamp, and What's Their Excuse?
As hordes of roster hopefuls completed their NBA auditions at the Las Vegas Summer League this week, a crop of league standouts arrived in Sin City to put their talent on display and under the microscope.
Team USA's 2013 minicamp kicked off on Monday, with 28 of the nation's top rising stars getting three days of practice and a Thursday night intrasquad scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center to convince the decision-makers that they're worthy of consideration for future international competitions.
The camp's roster carries tremendous weight in basketball circles of both the casual and diehard variety. If you aren't familiar with these 28 players yet, it won't be long before they're racing up your fantasy draft boards and becoming embedded in your hoops vernacular.
But this isn't a complete collection of the league's brightest young guns. There's a laundry list of excuses from the players who declined their invitations to the camp, whether there were scheduling conflicts, injury concerns or, of course, the dog that ate their invites.
With the hoops world focused on the players who did make the journey, we're here to shine a light on those who passed on this tremendous opportunity.
Are all of their absences excusable? We'll let you be the judge.
The 2012 Olympians
Save for sophomore forward Anthony Davis, the entire gold-medal-winning 2012 Team USA squad has been spared from auditioning for their own roster spots.
The championship squad wasn't always dominant in London—the globalization of the game has made those days a distant memory—but it made the plays it had to make to cap an unblemished run through the Olympic Games.
If these players hadn't previously proved their worth, then that day was never going to come. If the Team USA selection committee wants to keep tabs on its current group, all it has to do is spend five minutes absorbing the nightly highlight reels next season.
Davis didn't get the chance to put his wide-ranging skills on full display at the 2012 Olympic Games, and a variety of injuries limited his exposure during his rookie run in New Orleans. So he's back on the chopping block, but with the point guard skills he houses in his 6'10" frame, it won't be long before he's enjoying the same summer vacation that his Team USA teammates have earned this year.
No, Team USA hasn't bought into the misguided belief that Chris Bosh lost his basketball talents in his southern migration in the summer of 2010.
In fact, just the opposite is true. The floor-spacing big man has already captured the attention of Jerry Colangelo and Co., and if not for a strained abdominal muscle, Bosh would've added a second gold medal to his hardware collection last summer.
He didn't need to go to Las Vegas to teach the selection committee something it already knew.
The 29-year-old is built for this kind of competition. He steps away from the basket and knocks down jumpers, knows all about sharing the floor (and the spotlight) with superstar teammates and has anchored the past two banner-raising defensive units of the Miami Heat.
Bosh's image has taken a beating among the casual NBA fans, but his Team USA stock should be as healthy as ever.
This is, perhaps, the most curious omission of the bunch.
Jimmy Butler's stock soared as high as any rising star in the postseason and certainly kept pace with (or surpassed) that of Kawhi Leonard and Harrison Barnes, both of whom received minicamp invites. He also has an ally in the coaching staff, now that Chicago Bulls frontman Tom Thibodeau has joined Mike Krzyzewski's staff.
In a span of just two seasons, the Bulls' sophomore wing is already running short on limitations. He shoots well, defends tremendously and tracks down rebounds at a respectable rate.
With players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant crowding Team USA's forward spots, maybe there's a belief that Butler has no realistic shot at a roster spot with the big club. But why wouldn't that same argument extend to guys like Leonard and Barnes?
Butler didn't decline a minicamp invitation; he never received one.
Maybe this is Thibodeau's way of thanking him for that ridiculous workload in the playoffs. As unlikely as that seems, try to come up with any explanation for bypassing Butler that doesn't leave you scratching your head.
Snubbed by the selection committees of both the All-Star Game and Team USA in the same season? What more does sharpshooter Stephen Curry have to prove?
Well, nothing at all actually.
He's been on the national team's radar for quite some time. He suited up for Team USA at the 2010 World Championships and took part in this very same audition last summer.
After vaulting almost all the way up the postseason scoring leaderboard, Curry has compiled quite the resume for Colangelo and Co. to mull over.
At best, he would have solidified his place near the top of this group of players—something that his 2012-13 campaign suggests he's already done. Worst-case scenario: He tweaks his troublesome ankle yet again, leaving the fate of the revamped Golden State Warriors in jeopardy.
It's probably for the best that an uninvited Curry is forced to sit this one out. As long as he's on the floor when the real games get under way, he won't stray too far from the team's field of vision.
Taj Gibson isn't pointing any fingers at the Team USA brass for keeping him out of Las Vegas. A sprained ankle is to blame for his suddenly cleared schedule.
The 28-year-old would've been the camp's senior member—Mike Conley, 25, instead carries that title—but a talented Bulls frontcourt has largely kept him from displaying his basketball skills in a starting role throughout his career.
He's a gifted rim protector with a soft shooting touch that extends out to 16 feet. Team USA is short on impactful low-post players, and Gibson could've been among the group of blossoming bigs looking to provide some depth to the real roster.
Earning future consideration won't be easy until Chicago frees up more minutes for the former USC star. This might have been his best chance at swaying the coaching staff in his favor, but his body just wouldn't allow him to compete.
Kawhi Leonard was due for a break.
He played a leading role for the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs and is barely a month removed from their seven-game clash with the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Unlike many of his San Antonio teammates, Leonard didn't receive any "superstar" breaks from Gregg Popovich. Even while the coach risked (and eventually ate) a major fine by sending four of his best players home before a regular-season tilt with the Heat, he left Leonard in Miami to fend largely for himself.
Citing the need to recover from such a long season, Leonard informed Team USA that he would not be participating in the minicamp. All the same, it wouldn't be a surprise if the noted gym rat spent his sabbatical fine-tuning whatever holes he thinks he's found in his game.
The book is out on Blake Griffin, and it's not nearly as harsh as some fans would lead you to believe.
While the highlight hounds know him best for his nightly displays of freakish athleticism, better basketball minds recognize the tremendous strides he's made in his post scoring and shooting abilities.
And yes, these minds do include those inside Team USA's war room. Like Bosh, an injury was also the only thing standing between Griffin and a trip to the Olympic Games last summer, although in Griffin's case, a torn meniscus forced him out of the competition.
When cooler heads prevail, it becomes obvious that Griffin's days of proving his worth have long since passed. Sure, he could have livened up those practice sessions with a few jaw-dropping dunks, but he didn't catch Colangelo's eye off those highlight finishes alone.
Since Team USA can't wrestle either of the San Antonio Spurs' star guards (Tony Parker, France; Manu Ginobili, Argentina) away from their national clubs, it seems Colangelo's crew wanted to reel in similar talent to avoid an international crisis.
Their idea? Add George Hill, an Indiana native who played his first three NBA seasons in San Antonio, to the roster. While he's not exactly the same player as his former teammates, he's still a two-way contributor who knows how to lead a successful roster.
In theory, it's not the worst idea I've ever heard. Whether it was sound strategy, though, will remain a mystery. The Indiana Pacers' floor general pulled out of this week's camp due to a "scheduling conflict," via USA Today. The Indianapolis Star later reported that Hill's youth basketball camp was the reason behind his declined invitation.
Would it be selfish for Hill to chase his own basketball dreams at the expense of those of his young campers, or is it foolish for the 27-year-old to pass up this possible once-in-a-lifetime experience? With a glut of accomplished point men already on the big club's roster and a horde of talented newcomers ready to receive the torch, I'm tempted to say Hill made the right call here.
Are basketball reasons to blame for Dwight Howard's absence here?
In a way, yes, I suppose they are.
His basketball resume is long and distinguished enough to free him of this rigorous exercise. Any player who can average 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in a self-proclaimed "nightmare" season (h/t Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver) has already convinced Team USA of his abilities.
Back surgery in April 2012 kept him out of London, but a healthy Howard would be a welcome addition to this perimeter-oriented roster. His post moves may never reach the mechanical level that analysts wish they would, but his mere presence near the basket and ability to finish plays above the rim are enough to make him the best center in the business right now.
Besides, he's still getting settled into his new home with the Houston Rockets. Do you really think James Harden has had the chance to show him all of the finer points of Houston's night life?
Rajon Rondo already had his chance to make the American team and withdrew from consideration before any official decision on his fate had been made.
Why go through the motions of inviting someone to audition for a part that they have no desire to play? Never mind the fact that Rondo's lengthy rehab period from the torn ACL that ended his last season is a long way from being over.
Besides, he's past the days of show-and-prove appearances. If Rondo wanted a shot at the roster and Colangelo was convinced he was committed to the idea, he wouldn't need this camp to bolster his campaign.
Dwyane Wade has a pair of medals to remind him of his service with Team USA.
One, a gold from the 2008 Games, is probably prominently featured somewhere in his trophy case. The other, a bronze from 2004, may have never made its way back from Athens.
Through good times and bad, Wade has seen it all with the national club. Hopefully, he kept the film from those contests, since the 31-year-old's knees may have restricted those days to his memory bank.
Even if he was full strength, and even if he somehow needed to strengthen his resume at the minicamp, it's hard to imagine he'd be in Las Vegas right now. With an NBA Finals appearance in each of his last three seasons and another potentially on the horizon for next season, Wade's best plan for summer vacation is a heavy serving of rest and relaxation.
Until his jersey bears the logo of any other franchise, Wade's one and only basketball commitment should be to the Miami Heat.
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