Who is on the cut bubble for Team USA?
The team hierarchy was still saying Friday that the plan is to head into training camp with 14 or 15 players, though it left itself a ton of wiggle room. So don't be surprised if that number is as high as 16 after the cuts are made sometime next week. After four days of practices in which the roster shrunk from 22 to 19 as Amare Stoudemire, David Lee and Robin Lopez were either forced out or withdrew, here is the latest intelligence regarding who is on the bubble, who is close to being on the bubble, and who isn't.
On The Bubble
If there is one area in which Team USA has an embarrassment of riches, it is at point guard with Evans, the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year, Derrick Rose, the 2009 ROY, along with Chauncey Billups, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry. A sore ankle kept Evans sidelined for practices Thursday and Friday, which was when the coaching staff focused hardest on what went down in the scrimmages. That absence has made Evans the No. 1 cut candidate, and it'll take what amounts to an epic comeback for him to stick.
There should be a place on the end of the bench in Turkey for a shooter, and Curry has impressed the staff most with his proficiency in that area. Plus, Curry is capable of moving over to shooting guard, and positional versatility is huge plus at all five spots. Gordon has drawn praise for his defense, but it'll take a lights-out shooting night to get him to New York.
As we noted Tuesday in our pre-camp preview, Mayo is somewhat superfluous on a roster loaded with backcourt players but thin in the frontcourt. (When Mayo read it, he looked up "superfluous" in the dictionary.) He has done little to distinguish himself over the four days of practice, and at 6-foot-4 he is a little too small -- and thus has a lack of positional versatility -- to shift over to the small forward spot.
Almost On The Bubble
He was a pure bubble guy until Friday, when he was consistently knocking down 3-pointers in scrimmages after sitting out the previous day to rest a bruised shin. He needs to outshine Andre Iguodala on Saturday to keep up the positive vibe.
Jeff Green, F
One of only three true power forwards remaining, and the shortage of big men works in his favor. But Lamar Odom provides more experience, and Kevin Love has been a better player thus far.
He is the lone member of the remaining 19 with an asterisk next to his name on the official roster, denoting him as merely a camp invitee and not a member of the national team. But with only three centers, it is risky to cut any of them.
Brook Lopez, C
Has been sluggish after recovering from a long bout with mononucleosis, and he is more of a scoring center than a rebounder and shot-blocker -- which is what Team USA wants most out of its big men.
Andre Iguodala, F
Makes this portion of the list only because he has the most to lose with a bad performance Saturday night, especially if Green plays well. His defensive abilities weigh heavily in his favor.
Not On The Bubble
Team USA: Warmup Games
Here's Team USA's remaining schedule of exhibitions leading up to the 2010 FIBA men's basketball championship slated for Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Istanbul, Turkey:
• Aug. 25: USA vs. Greece, Athens, Greece, Noon ET, ESPN2, ESPN3.com
The face of the team, the best player on the team, the only guy who can reasonably be called a lock at this point to also make the 2012 Olympic team.
Chauncey Billups, G
The unquestioned team leader, the wise old quarterback who will be asked to replicate the role Jason Kidd played for the 2008 Redeem Team.
Tyson Chandler, C
He has clearly been the team's best center, and has looked healthy after missing most of the last two NBA seasons with injuries.
Lamar Odom, F
Coach K loves his experience (he played on the 2004 Olympic team) and his versatility. He might even end up spending more time at center than at power forward.
Kevin Love, F
He has been incredibly active at both ends of the floor, hitting the defensive glass and consistently knocking down outside shots.
Rudy Gay, F
Was a standout in minicamp a year ago, and has the combination of quickness, size and shooting ability that will be this team's collective calling card.
Russell Westbrook, G
His ability to play off the ball, which he did at UCLA, is huge. And his defensive tenacity and floor leadership have both brought rave reviews thus far.
Rajon Rondo, G
The team will likely take five guards to Turkey, six if you include Durant. His inability to make free throws, or to play shooting guard, is a concern.
Derrick Rose, G
Like Rondo, he may very well end up being a bubble guy when the team holds training camp in New York from Aug. 9 to 15.
Gerald Wallace, F
Much like the Rose-Rondo conundrum, the Wallace/Iguodala/Granger similarities will bear watching in New York. Size and defensive tenacity work in his favor.
Stephen Curry, G
There is no way Team USA will head to Turkey without a designated zone buster, a la Michael Redd in Beijing. Again, his ability to play either guard spot helps him.
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