Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum said the mass exodus of NBA superstars from Team USA ahead of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup came because players were worried about the long travel to China and being leaned on too heavily during the tournament.
McCollum explained during an appearance on The Woj Pod with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that a full-strength roster would have equated to blowouts, eliminating individual concerns about playing time, but thoughts of an easy journey to the title started to erode with each elite player who decided to drop out:
The 27-year-old Ohio native, who recently signed a three-year, $100 million contract extension with the Blazers, told Woj players want a chance to rest and recover during the offseason and that may not have been possible if they were asked to play a lot of World Cup minutes.
Portland teammate Damian Lillard along with the Houston Rockets' James Harden and Eric Gordon, Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson, Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal, Philadelphia 76ers' Tobias Harris, San Antonio Spurs' DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love were among the other players to withdraw from consideration.
The United States' incredible depth is showcased in the odds. Even with all the players who won't be in China, Team USA is still listed as a sizable -250 favorite to win the tournament followed by Serbia at +450, per OddsChecker. No other team is lower than +1,900.
Walker, Mitchell and Co. open the tournament with a Group E clash against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1.