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Team USA roster update: Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma out due to ankle injury, 12-player squad finalized for 2019 FIBA World Cup

Team USA’s roster for the 2019 FIBA World Cup has been finalized. Still carrying 13 players into their exhibition tour in Australia, Gregg Popovich had one more cut to make ahead of the tournament. An injury ended up forcing his hand, as Kyle Kuzma was cut due to ankle injury that would have prevented him from participating in the competition. USA Basketball announced the move early on Saturday morning following its surprising loss to Australia in one of their pre-tournament exhibition games. That defeat was their first ever to Australia, and ended a 78-game winning streak that stretched back to 2006. 

This team, which is young and lacking the usual top-tier talent that has populated the national team rosters over the years, will now have plenty of motivation in their quest to earn Team USA a third straight World Cup title. It still has one exhibition game remaining ahead of the tournament, a matchup with Canada in Sydney, Australia on Monday. The first World Cup game is set for Sept. 1 against the Czech Republic. 

The squad lost quite a bit of talent to withdrawals before training camp even began, and that trend continued throughout the lead-up to the tournament. Most recently, Kyle Lowry, PJ Tucker and De’Aaron Fox all decided to drop out. Lowry and Tucker are still dealing with thumb and ankle injuries, respectively, while Fox decided to focus on the upcoming NBA season, according to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. Now Kuzma has joined the injured list. 

Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, will not be playing with Team USA this summer at the FIBA World Cup, Team USA director Jerry Colangelo told The Athletic. That decision came after Williamson missed most of Las Vegas Summer League because of a bruised knee, and discussions about whether he was out of shape. If he played, Williamson would have been part of a “select” team of up-and-coming players, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, but would have had an opportunity to make the final 12-man roster. Per Shams Charania, Williamson and the Pelicans want the rookie to spend the offseason getting “fully integrated” with the franchise. 

In addition to Williamson, Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love withdrew his name from Team USA for the World Cup that begins at the end of August, according to Charania. Furthermore, the Portland Trail Blazers All-Star guard Damian Lillard also withdrew from the team on Tuesday, per Charania, as has San Antonio Spurs swingman DeMar DeRozan. Kyle Lowry, however, reportedly remains committed and should be ready to practice midway through Team USA’s camp as he recovers from thumb surgery. 

Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal reportedly dropped out of consideration as well. He’ll miss the event because of the upcoming birth of his child, according to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. Furthermore, Philadelphia 76ers swingman Tobias Harris has removed himself from consideration, per the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. 

Williamson, Beal, Lillard, DeRozan, Harris are among over a dozen players to withdraw from the team this summer, along with Lakers forward Anthony Davis, Rockets guards James Harden and Eric Gordon, Knicks forward Julius Randle, Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, Pelicans guard JJ Redick, Pistons center Andre Drummond and Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum.

Team USA roster

Players that have withdrawn or been cut

While Popovich said trimming the roster down to 12 is never easy, clearly some players helped him out by withdrawing on their own. Regardless, Popovich is excited to work with some of the best players in the league while representing the United States. 

“I am excited about getting to training camp in August and working with all of the players that have been selected to attend the USA National Team training camp in Las Vegas,” Popovich said. “We’ve got an excellent cross-section of veteran USA Basketball and NBA players, as well as some exciting younger players who possess amazing versatility.

“I’m appreciative of commitment that our National Team players continue to make, and the eagerness of the new players to become involved. Selecting a 12-man team will be extremely difficult. But I look forward to working with all of the players, representing the United States and doing so in a manner that all Americans will hopefully rally behind.”

USA Basketball held training camp Aug. 5-8 in Las Vegas and will participate in the FIBA World Cup in China from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.  

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