“Team USA’s roster for the upcoming FIBA World Cup in the Philippines is beginning to take shape,” reported Shams Charania of The Athletic on June 4. “And it will include at least four rising NBA stars making their American national team debut.”
Bridges is among a group that includes Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Indiana Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton, the Los Angeles Lakers’ breakout performer Austin Reaves, and Bridges’ college teammate Jalen Brunson of the rival New York Knicks all of whom will be making their debuts for Team USA.
Training camp opens on August 6 and they play New Zealand on August 26, per Charania.
Mikal Bridges Could Breakout With Team USA
The 26-year-old swingman averaged 26.1 points per game on 60.7% true shooting in 27 appearances, displaying a greater ability to create for himself than he had shown for much of his time with the Phoenix Suns in a vastly different role.
Bridges’ 30.3% usage rate in Brooklyn was 11.1% higher than it was this past season in Phoenix which was already on pace to be a career-high mark. The flashes that he showed while stepping up in the pecking order for an injury-plagued Suns team translated even in a new situation with several new teammates.
So much so that Nets general manager Sean Marks refrained from capping his ceiling.
“We’re talking about a young man that’s growing in front of our eyes,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said via YES Network on April 22. “A great learning experience that we can’t replicate unless he goes through it. And he’s going to grow from it, he’s going to be a better player from it.”
Competing alongside and against the best in the world on the international stage could have a similar effect on the affable Bridges.
Mikal Bridges Sends Message to Former Suns Teammate
Bridges is active on Twitter from supporting his favorite baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies, to stirring up trade rumors, to staying in contact with former teammates. He and Suns’ center Jock Landale also have an ongoing battle that seems to have begun when Landale sent a tongue-in-cheek warning to incoming prospects wanting to emulate Bridges.
And it continued with Bridges’ reaction to Landale’s take on the former’s addition to the Team USA squad.
Asked what his stat line against Team USA would be, Landale replied: “50 [points] now Mikal’s playing”.
USA and Australia are not yet slated to meet, per the Team USA website.
This past season was the duo’s first as teammates, and it only lasted until the trade deadline. But the bond appears as strong as any, though Landale did joke with former NBA player Chandler Parsons on ‘Run It Back’ that Suns fans are still protective of the Nets’ rising star even over him while Nets fans have embraced Bridges, who acknowledges he is a change from the past.
“I think Brooklyn itself had a lot going on,” Bridges said on ‘The Pivot Podcast’ on May 20. “They had Kyrie, [James] Harden, and KD. And then all that happening, and Kyrie[‘s suspension], and all that stuff. I think they were just ready for refreshing.”
They will be even happier if he can indeed parlay this upcoming experience into meaningful gains as a player.