Wojnarowski: Lillard, McCollum Invited To Compete For Spot On Team USA

by Casey Holdahl
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While it doesn't get the same attention on this side of the Atlantic as the Summer Olympics, the FIBA Basketball World Cup (formerly known as the World Championships) is considered by many to be the more prestigious of the international basketball competitions (though some would argue that's due to the fact it's one of the few international competitions a European team has won in the last 25 years). Held every four years -- and typically two years after the last Summer Olympics and two years before the next -- 32 teams from various FIBA regions qualify, with the tournament featuring three rounds of group play before the winner is determined by a single elimination round.

After the United States repeated as FIBA Basketball World Cup champions in 2014 by defeating Serbia in the championship in Spain, they'll go for a third-straight title this summer in Beijing. And even though it's not on the level of the Olympics, there's reason to believe that Trail Blazers fans might have cause to pay attention once the tournament start on August 31. 

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have been invited to participate in the August minicamp that will determine which 12 players head to Beijing, under the tutelage of head coach Gregg Popovich, for the World Cup...

USA Basketball is finalizing a training camp roster for the FIBA World Cup in China that includes Portland's Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Washington's Bradley Beal and Cleveland's Kevin Love, league sources told ESPN.

USA Basketball will conduct an August minicamp in Las Vegas ahead of the September tournament in China that will include an 18-man camp roster for coach Gregg Popovich's eventual 12-man American team.

Among other players planning to attend the camp with intentions to play in China: New Orleans' Anthony Davis, Houston guards James Harden and Eric Gordon, Boston's Jayson Tatum, Utah's Donovan Mitchell, Milwaukee's Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge, Detroit's Andre Drummond, and the Lakers' Kyle Kuzma, league sources told ESPN.

Lillard and McCollum have been in the USA Basketball program for years, though neither has actually made a roster for international competition. Both have participated in the Team USA minicamp, which is held almost every year in Las Vegas, and considering the competition, both would seem to stand a good chance of cracking the 12-man roster this time around. If Lillard, McCollum or both end up making the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup team, their chances of being selected for the 2020 Summer Olympics, scheduled to be held in Tokyo, likely improves. 

But while it's an honor to be selected to play for Team USA, it's also a significant commitment. The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup runs from August 31 to September 15, which is just a little over a week from the start of NBA training camps. And between the mini camp in Las Vegas, practices, friendlies in Los Angeles and Australia and the competition itself, you're looking at over a full month of the offseason. Granted, playing roughly 15 games versus international competition isn't on the same level of playing 15 NBA games, but spending at least three weeks between Australia and China when you already spend over two months on the road over the course of the NBA season takes a toll. Those minutes, even against sub-NBA competition, do add up. 

Also worth mentioning that you might already have some Trail Blazers' rooting interest at the upcoming World Cup of Basketball, as the Nigerian National team, which often features starting forward Al-Farouq Aminu, already punched their ticket for Beijing by winning their group in the African Qualifiers. Aminu most recently played with the Nigerian National team in 2015, when he helped lead the team to the FIBA AfroBasket championship

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