Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo did not have the roster he thought he would have for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
What started out as a possibly stacked roster ended up becoming a shell of itself led by Kemba Walker and the entire Boston Celtics young core. Kyle Kuzma was the only member of the Los Angeles Lakers who even made it to practice, but was sent home with an ankle injury just before the tournament began.
Kuzma had actually been playing quite well for Team USA before the injury. In his best game, Kuzma had 12 points on 4-of-5 from the three-point line. Sadly, it was after this game that Kuzma was sent home, but what he had been bringing to them did help change their identity.
Colangelo discussed the players who opted out of the tournament in its early stages, saying that he’ll ‘remember’ those who chose not to play. However, he also talked about the Kuzma and Jayson Tatum injuries and how that could’ve been a huge help in some of those lost games, according to ESPN:
Colangelo felt ankle injuries sustained by Jayson Tatum during the World Cup and Kyle Kuzma just before the tournament hurt the U.S. chances in China, noting that the team felt Kuzma was going to be a big help. Colangelo insisted that he didn’t fault the effort of the players who made the commitment this summer.
It’s unlikely that Kuzma and Tatum would’ve been the difference between the team’s seventh-place finish and the gold medal, but perhaps they could’ve found ways to be more competitive in those lost games.
Hopefully, at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, more All-Star players will be willing to make the trip despite it coming just a month before the start of training camp. They always show out for the big tournaments and it would be surprising to see a lackluster roster such as this one representing Team USA next year.
Meanwhile, it’s nice to see that Kuzma’s presence was big enough to where his absence made a legitimate difference.
It’s something to watch for as the Lakers need Kuzma to step up and become this Lakers team’s third All-Star player. Playing with Team USA is always good for young players, and it seems like Kuzma may have felt those benefits without having to even play in the tournament.