When the player pool for Team USA consideration for the 2014 World Cup in Spain (formerly the World Championships, but FIBA is trying to ride soccer's success some here) and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was announced earlier today, it was certainly no surprise that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were among the 28 names on the list. Nor in fact was it a surprise that DeAndre Jordan was not on the list -- but it was something of a disappointment.
Paul is a Team USA veteran and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. If he wants to be considered, then he's on the team, it's as simple as that. Point guard play is arguably more important in international basketball than it is in the NBA, since these teams are thrown together quickly, and having a smart and capable on court leader becomes that much more important. As for Griffin, he's been on Team USA's radar since the 2010 Worlds, but injuries have kept him off the team. He was actually named to the Team USA for the 2012 London Olympics, but an injury in a tune up game sidelined him and he was replaced by Anthony Davis.
Paul will probably opt against playing in the Worlds in 2014; as much as USA Basketball wants to emphasize an ongoing commitment, the fact is that for the top names, Olympic gold matters more, and they won't invest their time on the Worlds. Griffin will no doubt play in Spain given the chance, in order to help secure himself a place on the team for Rio.
Jordan was part of the Select team of hopefuls chosen to participate in a USA Basketball mini-camp in Las Vegas over the summer. There were a slew of bigs in that camp with DeAndre: Davis was there, along with Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Tyler Zeller and Derrick Favors. Jordan played as well as any big at the camp and earned high praise from the coaches at the time; but while Cousins and Drummond made it into the pool for Team USA, Jordan did not.
The timing is interesting in so far as we've been talking this week about Jordan vis-a-vis Drummond. There's an amazing amount of buzz surrounding the Pistons' youngster, who could add an All Star appearance to his Team USA selection next week. But the simple fact is that Jordan and Drummond are very similar players, and Jordan has been better this season.
Of course, Drummond is just 21 years old, and Team USA in particular (with one big tournament to worry about every two years) has a vested interest in getting players identified and into the system as early as possible.
Jordan was always a long shot for Team USA. Cousins is a major talent and it's difficult to argue his inclusion on a strictly basketball basis (though you could certainly make a different argument). As for the DeAndre/Andre question: it's hard to fault USA Basketball for going with the younger of the two.
Obviously we would have liked to see Jordan continue gaining this experience. It's hard to quantify what impact his week working with Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Thibodeau and the other Team USA coaches may have had, but he's obviously having his best season, and his Team USA experience is almost certainly part of the reason.
By the way, this isn't over yet. These pools are always very fluid, and if a few bigs opt out of consideration (Tyson Chandler is 31 after all) then Jordan could get back on the radar. Depending on one views Davis, there are only three true centers in the pool of 28. Coach K has played small ever since taking over the reins of Team USA, but if Cousins or Drummond doesn't work out, they may need Jordan yet.
Here's the full list of 28 players in the Team USA pool: