Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker is relishing the opportunity to lead Team USA at the 2019 FIBA World Cup after several star players removed themselves from consideration.
According to ESPN, Walker suggested to reporters Monday that the remaining Team USA players have a chip on their collective shoulder:
"This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of us. I think a lot of us are happy those guys pulled out because this is our chance. It's our chance to get on the big stage and showcase our talent. A chance for us to do something new. It'll be a new-look team. Everybody is kind of doubting us but I think we're hungry."
Notable players for Team USA have pulled out of the FIBA World Cup in droves over the past few weeks, including Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis, Houston Rockets guard James Harden, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal.
Walker has plenty to prove after failing to lead the Charlotte Hornets to the playoffs over the past three seasons. In Boston, he will attempt to show that he can be the top star on a contending team.
Being the go-to scorer on Team USA could help set the wheels in motion, although he won't be on an island with the likes of Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton and Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.
Team USA will have a decidedly Celtics flavor as well, with Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown on the roster.
In some respects, having four of Boston's top players during the World Cup will give the C's a leg up in terms of developing chemistry prior to the 2019-20 campaign.
While the Americans are favored to win their third consecutive FIBA World Cup, the dropouts have undoubtedly left them more vulnerable and left the door open for the Marc Gasol-led Spain, Nikola Jokic-led Serbia or Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Greece to take gold.
The 2019 FIBA World Cup will begin Aug. 31 in China, while Walker and Co. will have their first opportunity to prove the doubters wrong Sept. 1, when they face the Czech Republic at Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Group E.