The eyes of the globe turn toward Spain beginning on August 30 as Team USA and a host of other participants take part in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Over the course of about two weeks from that point onward, the world's best take the hardwood to showcase not only those individual players, but the slight differences in style and approach to the game that each country employs.
The team able to best adapt to the proceedings will emerge the winner, which in turn grants the country a free pass to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Let's take a look at the schedule and zoom in on Team USA in particular.
Event Dates and Draw Info
The comprehensive, somewhat complicated schedule can be found broken down in a colorful manner via FIBA on Twitter:
The draw itself to determine the groups was held back in February. Perhaps the thing that sticks out most upon first pass is the tall task in front of Team USA in Group C:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
Team USA Schedule
|Saturday, Aug. 30||United States vs. Finland||3:30 p.m.|
|Sunday, Aug. 31||United States vs. Turkey||3:30 p.m.|
|Tuesday, Sept. 2||United States vs. New Zealand||11:30 a.m.|
|Wednesday, Sept. 3||United States vs. Dominican Republic||3:30 p.m.|
|Thursday, Sept. 4||United Staes vs. Ukraine||11:30 a.m.|
|Sept. 6-7||Round of 16||TBD|
|Sept. 14||Gold Medal Game||TBD|
Team USA Breakdown
Perhaps no bigger microscope this time around is more intense than the one placed on Team USA.
The storylines are plentiful, to say the least. After the loss of Paul George to injury, the roster then lost Kevin Durant. As reigning NBA MVP, the Oklahoma City Thunder star is obviously a huge loss, but ESPN.com's Marc Stein truly puts things into perspective:
Durant was Team's USA most fearsome matchup nightmare. Among this assemblage of the internationally untested, Durant was the squad's most vocal behind-the-scenes leader, too. He was going to be the ultimate X factor in Coach K's playbook to offset the absence or loss of any other Team USAer, because no team in the world—not even big, bad, bulky Spain on Spanish soil—has a counter for KD when he's in full flow.
It is a loss that in no way cripples Team USA's chances, but if further members of the team are lost for one reason or another, things then begin to get dicey.
One of the biggest names to watch with Durant out of the picture is 21-year-old Anthony Davis, who heads into his third season after already wowing the professional world as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans:
Davis was already a cornerstone of the roster because of a lack of depth in the frontcourt, but he might just be the most important player of all and the one who will be tasked with doing the majority of the scoring.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski has already hinted at such a role, as captured by USAB.com:
Well Anthony would have had a huge role no matter what. Anthony is one of the best players in the NBA. But with those two guys (gone), I think scoring-wise, he’ll get more opportunities, because if you have Durant, you are going to put things in for him. So, when he is not there, then those things aren’t in, so for everybody it becomes a little bit more available. But Anthony played a great a game against Brazil; not a good game. He had an influence on every exchange, offensively or defensively, while he was in there.
The other big name who might just hold the key to Team USA's success is Derrick Rose. Physically, it is difficult to argue that he does not appear back to form based on his recent performances:
For Rose, the battle will surely be more mental than anything else as he continues to fight against the injury bug. Add in a dash of international play that is at least somewhat out of his comfort zone, and his ability to overcome unique hurdles will do much to decide how his country performs in the coming weeks.
Speaking of the schedule ahead, Team USA's biggest foe in Group C happens to be Turkey, the only other team in the top 10 of the FIBA rankings.
The real battle the globe wants to—and surely will—see is a showdown with Spain. A frontcourt that includes Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka will put Davis and Co. to test, while Rose will have to find a way to counter the artful skill of Ricky Rubio.
As is always the case, though, each member of Team USA will also have to set aside his own personal aspirations for the greater good of the team. The ability to do so in order to birth positive chemistry and a strong bond on the court will ultimately decide how far the team can go.
Some of the biggest names may be absent from the roster, but Team USA is equipped to handle the adversity ahead under the watchful eye of the globe.