Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz have reached out to Team USA about representing the United States in the World Cup in China this summer, according to USA Basketball Executive Director Jerry Colangelo.
In a phone interview Saturday from Las Vegas, where he was getting set to attend the Western Athletic Conference championship game between Grand Canyon and New Mexico State, Colangelo was extremely optimistic that Team USA will be well-represented for the 32-team tournament.
Team USA has been placed in Group E and will face the Czech Republic, Japan and Turkey in Shanghai. The 2019 FIBA World Cup competition has been expanded from 16 to 32 teams and will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 15 in eight cities in China.
The seven other preliminary round groups are as follows:
Group A, playing in Beijing – China, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland and Venezuela
Group B, playing in Wuhan – Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea and Russia
Group C, playing in Guangzhou – Iran, Puerto Rico, Spain and Tunisia
Group D, playing in Foshan – Angola, Italy, Philippines and Serbia
Group F, playing in Nanjing – Brazil, Greece, Montenegro and New Zealand
Group G, playing in Shenzhen – Dominican Republic, France, Germany and Jordan
Group H, playing in Dongguan – Australia, Canada, Lithuania and Senegal
“It’s exciting to learn the makeup of our preliminary round pool and to know we will be playing our first three World Cup games in Shanghai,” said USA and head coach Gregg Popovich. “I think all of the pools are well balanced and I know very well there are many national teams who have a legitimate shot of winning the 2019 World Cup. Our group, Group E, features Czech Republic, Japan and Turkey, so we’ll face three well coached teams and a variety of playing styles. Selecting and preparing the USA team in a short amount of time will be a challenge and repeating as gold medalists for a third straight FIBA World Cup is something everyone associated with the USA team will embrace.”
Following competition of the round-robin first round games, the top two finishing teams from each group will qualify for the second round.
Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic expressed interest to this columnist at a game in Brooklyn, and word has reached the top levels of USA Basketball.
“He is on the list,” Colangelo said. “It seems like there is a great level of interest, and (USA Basketball team director) Sean Ford and I will be speaking on Monday. I’m guessing we would like to have this all done in a month.
“We haven’t reached out to anybody directly yet, so it’s premature to say anything more. But James Harden says everybody wants to play, including himself, and some players have reached out asking for extra rooms for their people.”
Team USA will meet in Las Vegas for a mini-camp on Aug. 5, then travel to Anaheim to play Spain, and then to Australia for a week, playing two games in Melbourne and one in Sydney.
“The general sense is that there is a lot of interest, the bigger problem is how we deal with that and determine who we really want to take,” Colangelo said.
Team USA qualified with various teams of G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy.
The current roster includes Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, Jimmy Butler, Mike Conley, Stephen Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Eric Gordon, Draymond Green, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Tobias Harris, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, DeAndre Jordan, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Love, C.J. McCollum, Khris Middleton, Victor Oladipo, Chris Paul, Isiah Thomas, Klay Thompson, Myles Turner, Kemba Walker, John Wall and Russell Westbrook.
The quarterfinals action will be held in Dongguan and Shanghai on Sept. 10-11.
Semifinals and the gold and bronze medal game are slated to be held in Beijing on Sept. 13 and Sept. 15, respectively.
The 32-team 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup competition will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 15 in China. Eight cities will host World Cup games – Beijing, Foshan, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Nanjing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Popovich will be assisted by NBA head coaches Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors) and Nate McMillan (Indiana Pacers) and Villanova University head coach Jay Wright.