Ex-Blue Devils Irving, Plumlee survive Team USA cut to 16
Versatility on the perimeter and in the post have former Duke players Mason Plumlee and Kyrie Irving still in the mix to make USA Basketball’s roster for this month’s FIBA World Cup.
USA Basketball general manager Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski trimmed their training camp roster from 20 to 16 players on Tuesday, with former Duke teammates Irving and Plumlee making the cut.
Krzyzewski, who coached both players with the Blue Devils, described Plumlee as the surprise name on the list because he wasn’t among the original 19 players invited to Las Vegas to work with the national team.
Plumlee, who made the NBA’s all-rookie team last season with the Brooklyn Nets, was in Las Vegas playing with the USA Select team, a step below the national team. But departures from the main squad, namely Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, created a need for more interior players.
“He’s in consideration, no question,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday.
Krzyzewski said the 6-11 Plumlee had impressed with his work with the Select team and continued that in Friday’s scrimmage.
The scrimmage was cut short when Paul George suffered a compound fracture in his leg early in the fourth quarter. But Plumlee had hit all four of his third-quarter field goals to score 10 points in a reserve role.
“He’s basically doing what he was going his senior year a Duke when he was the top big man in the country,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s a guy that really runs the court well and plays good defense. Being around the Nets and being around veterans — in particular being around Kevin Garnett — only helped him more. He’s an easy guy for these guys to to play with. He does not need the ball long and does the dirty work and he’s athletic.”
Plumlee is one of four centers on the roster that will lose four more players before the team heads to Spain for the FIBA World Cup Aug. 28-Sept. 14.
Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans is considered a lock to make the team while Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Detroit’s Andre Drummond are battling with Plumlee for reserve roles.
“We needed to bring all our big guys forward and take a better look at them,” Krzyzewski said.
“We need more than Anthony. All the big guys are going to be looked at closely. We haven’t determined how many we’ll carry.”
Irving, who just finished his third season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, is a key figure in a backcourt. Krzyzewski said the team will need players capable of playing point guard and shooting guard and Irving’s skills match that need.
“Kyrie was one of the better players in the camp,” Krzyzewski said. “He has a unique skill set. He can run the team and he can play off the ball because he can shoot so well. He’s going to have to get used to doing that with his Cleveland team (now that LeBron James has rejoined the Cavaliers).”
Team USA takes a short break from practices and will reconvene in Chicago next week. The team will practice Aug. 14-15 before playing an exhibition against Brazil on Aug. 16 at the United Center.
From there, the team travels to New York for more practices and exhibitions Aug. 18-22. The U.S. team will play exhibition games at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 20 against the Dominican Republic and Aug. 22 versus Puerto Rico.
The entire 16-player list of finalists includes: Plumlee, Irving, Cousins, Davis, Drummond, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Derrick Rose, Kenneth Faried, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Korver, Damian Lillard, Chandler Parsons and Klay Thompson.
Davis, Durant and Harden were on the 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning team Krzyzewski coached at the London Olympics.
Curry, Durant and Rose were on the 2010 team, also coached by Krzyzewski, that won the World Championship in Turkey.
In those competitions, and in 2008 when the U.S. won the gold medal in Beijing, Krzyzewski played a core group of 7-9 players. A similar thing is planned for this year’s World Cup.
“We haven’t come up with that core group yet,” Krzyzewski said. “How do the remaining 3-4 guys compliment the core eight? It’s not about getting the best 12 players. It’s about how they fit together.”