CHARLOTTE – Sitting just 195 days away, the 2019 FIBA World Cup continues to draw attention from all around the globe.
Held in China from August 31 through September 15, the tournament looms as Australia’s greatest chance to collect a maiden medal in a major men's international tournament.
With the NBA All-Star weekend currently being held in Charlotte, numerous Team USA squad members were on hand for media day on Saturday morning (local time). While top echelon stars such as LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant remain a question mark in terms of availability, multiple other All-Star talents appear set to raise their hand for selection once the NBA season ends in June.
Speaking with The Pick and Roll from Charlotte, two-time All-Star from the Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal, was quick to quash any suggestion the tournament's timing could provide complications on the dawn of the 2019-20 NBA season.
“Not really [there are no concerns], because I feel like that’s the highest level, there’s nothing like a gold medal,” Beal said, as he went on to discuss his experiences in playing for USA basketball.
“I got the opportunity to get [a gold medal] when I was 15 or 16 and I’m always going to have it, nobody can take it away from me. Nobody can tell me I don’t have a gold medal because I do."
Beal is the second Team USA squad member to state their World Cup intent to The Pick and Roll, which would also include the two warm-up games at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne this August.
Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton was similarly enthusiastic when asked if he is eyeing off the chance to play for Team USA this offseason.
“Definitely, if the opportunity presents itself where I’m going to be on the World Cup or Olympic team, that’s going to be something I couldn’t turn down,” Middleton said.
“Any time you get a chance to participate in one of your country’s events, it’s definitely an honour.”
Just after the announcement of the Team USA warm-up games, former Basketball Australia CEO, Anthony Moore, hinted at the possibility of three more warm-up games against top flight European opposition.
With 108 international players from 42 different countries currently in the NBA, the World Cup presents the possibility of further top level superstars reaching Australian shores come August.
Arguably the biggest international star in the NBA right now, Milwaukee Buck, Giannis Antetokounmpo, confirmed his intention to play for his native Greece on Saturday morning – providing he is injury free come time for selection.
Antetokounmpo ranked fifth in recent Australian jersey number sales, and would be a huge drawcard for basketball fans down under.
While the announcement of each participating national squad is still months away, the commitment of basketball's biggest names will remain up in the air. Despite those questions, it's clear from speaking with the players that Team USA will have a squad filled with All-Star talent when they hit the floor in Melbourne, and Beal is definitely one of them.
"Not everybody has a chance to play for Team USA so for me, if I make the team that’s going to be an honour, I’m definitely going to put my hand up to play."