PAUL REMAINS PRESENCE WITH TEAM USA
Eric Patten, Clippers.com
Like Blake Griffin, his superstar teammate, Chris Paul will not be participating in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain later this month.
Paul, who watched from the sidelines as a casual observer during one of Team USA’s minicamp practices in Las Vegas a week ago, elected to sit out the worlds long ago. It is not uncommon, particularly for a two-time gold medalist and longtime member of USA Basketball, to stay home in a non-Olympic year. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Russell Westbrook are among the group who are expected to be involved with Team USA in 2016 for the Summer Games in Brazil, but will not go to Spain.
Of course, Paul still has a decision to make about whether or not he will be there, too. He’s won gold twice in 2008 as a rotation player, three years into his NBA career, and again in 2012 as one of Team USA’s leaders.
“Chris has meant a lot to our team over the years,” Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is the ultimate professional and leads the team when he is on the court. We have been very fortunate to have him lead two gold medal teams in the Olympics and be around our program for the past years.”
Paul’s legacy in international competition has been entrenched. He’s averaged 4.7 assists in three high profile events with USAB, including the 2006 World Championships. In London in 2012, Paul’s 5.1 assists per game were the fifth most by an American player in Olympic history and second most since the 1992 Dream Team. He also averaged 10.5 points and 7.8 assists with the 2004 U21 men’s team that won the Tournament of the Americas.
“When you look at this new wave of Team USA since Jerry [Colangelo] and I have been here, Chris is one guy you think of,” Krzyzewski continued. “He has been here throughout and even when he is not playing, he stops by to check in and be around the team. He is great to have for the younger players, too. He shows so much leadership out there and maturity.”
That level of leadership has carried over not only to the so-called new wave of USA Basketball, but also the new wave of All-Star point guards poised to eventually take the reins from Paul, who turned 29 in May.
“He’s been great for USA Basketball,” said John Wall, who participated in Team USA’s minicamp before missing out on the first wave of selections for the World Cup. “He’s one of those point guard who can score the ball and has a competitive edge and drive within himself that’s something you need.”
“Chris is one of the best players in the game and a great leader,” 2014 All-Star MVP Kyrie Irving added. “He has been a part of Team USA for a while now and is a big reason it is where it is at.”
As for Paul, his future with Team USA remains uncertain. But he’s grateful for the past decade in the program.
“Representing your country is the greatest honor you can have,” Paul said. “I have been very blessed to be a part of Team USA and win two gold medals.”