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Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry lead updated USA Basketball finalists for World Cup

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Kemba WalkerKyle Lowry and Khris Middleton are the lone remaining 2019 NBA All-Stars among U.S. candidates for next month’s FIBA World Cup, the first opportunity for nations to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Half of the original 20 players named to next week’s camp in Las Vegas, used to determine the 12-man World Cup roster, withdrew since June 10. That included the headliners James HardenDamian Lillard and Anthony Davis, with Harden and Lillard reportedly opting out to focus on the NBA season.

Lowry and Harrison Barnes are the two players of the revised 15 finalists with Olympic experience.

The final roster will be named Aug. 17 for September’s FIBA World Cup in China. The U.S. will qualify for the Tokyo Games if it is one of the top two teams from the Americas at worlds. There is also a last-chance qualifying tournament next year.

The original 20 players going to camp:

Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings*
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans**
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
James Harden, Houston Rockets**
Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers**
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors*
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
P.J. Tucker, Houston Rockets
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

The revised 15 players going to camp:

Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Harrison Barnes
, Sacramento Kings*
Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors*
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Mason Plumlee, Denver Nuggets
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
P.J. Tucker, Houston Rockets
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
Thaddeus Young, Chicago Bulls

*2016 Olympian
**2012 Olympian

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will make his U.S. head coaching debut at the World Cup, succeeding Mike Krzyzewski, who led the Americans to Olympic titles in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

It has become custom for the World Cup team to include few Olympians. The 2014 roster included two players from the London Olympics (Davis, Harden). The 2010 World Cup team had zero Beijing Olympians.

MORE: How U.S. Olympic 3×3 teams will be chosen

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USA Basketball details how Olympic 3×3 teams will be chosen

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USA Basketball will choose its teams for the Olympic debut of 3×3 via selection committee, but it’s unlikely NBA players will be eligible.

USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said that FIBA rules dictate all four players on each of the men’s and women’s teams, should the U.S. qualify (more on that here), must accumulate ranking points by playing in 3×3 events for the year leading up to June 22, 2020.

Two of the four players must be ranked in the top 10 among Americans in the FIBA rankings, based on results from the last 12 months, on June 22, 2020. The other two must be in the top 100. That means nobody can make the Olympic team without playing in a FIBA-endorsed 3×3 event.

Ideally, USA Basketball wants to take an entire 3×3 team that has been playing together. But it could pick and choose players from different teams. The Olympic teams would be named at the latest possible date before the overall July 6, 2020 entries deadline for the Games.

NBA players would likely have to use their 2019 offseason to play 3×3 and accumulate ranking points.

“It’s unlikely, but by the letter of the law, it is possible,” Tooley said. “You could get somebody who plays in a tournament in some open window, perhaps, that earns enough points to be eligible. That’s to be determined.

“It wasn’t [FIBA’s] vision to say this is another opportunity for NBA players. It’s for a different generation, a different style of player.”

USA Basketball has heard from one unnamed WNBA player who is interested in going for both the traditional, 12-player team event and the 3×3 event, though that double may not be doable given the Olympic schedule. The WNBA season calendar, from May to September, opens up more opportunities for players to venture into 3×3 events.

USA Basketball is trying to get the word out to potential 3×3 Olympic hopefuls, as well as evaluate them, by announcing a series of more than 20 domestic 3×3 tournaments sponsored by Red Bull on Thursday. The first is June 22 in Detroit. It starts getting serious with national championships in Las Vegas this week.

So far, the highest-profile player taking part in elite-level 3×3 is former Purdue star Robbie Hummel, who played 98 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2013-15.

Three-on-three games last 10 minutes, or until one team reaches 21 points. Games are played on a half-court with a 12-second shot clock, and offense immediately turns to defense after a team scores.

MORE: 3×3 basketball players juggle jobs, schoolwork

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Popovich: ‘Inappropriate’ for me to lobby players for Team USA during NBA season

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NEW YORK — Gregg Popovich will do everything he can to lead the United States to Olympic gold in Tokyo. Except for one thing.

He won’t lobby players to go to China, where the U.S. will play in the Basketball World Cup and qualify for the 2020 Olympics.

“I just think that would be inappropriate for me before games to go up to one or two guys on each team and say, ‘Hey, are you going to play for us this summer? I’d really like to have you,’” Popovich said. “He’s there to try to whip (us). He’s got a different priority that night and I think it would be inappropriate for me try to do that.”

Popovich has been the Americans’ national team coach for a few years but there was never a guarantee he’d actually get to lead them in competition. The U.S. first had to qualify for the Basketball World Cup, where the Americans can then play their way into the 2020 Olympics. Jeff Van Gundy guided the U.S. through qualifying, earning a spot in China with teams comprised of mostly NBA G League players. He finished 10-2 when the Americans beat Argentina 84-83 on Monday night in Greensboro, North Carolina .

“He was remarkable. Spectacular. Off the charts what he did to qualify the USA for the world championships,” Popovich said. “He put together about five different teams, mostly different players each time in a short amount of time they had to get them ready. If they didn’t do well, U.S. doesn’t go and he deserves a lot of credit for doing that on his own and really grateful to him.”

The minor leaguers will now give way to NBA stars this summer. Popovich, the San Antonio Spurs coach who was hired in 2015 to succeed Mike Krzyzewski following the Rio Olympics, said he doesn’t believe anybody has, thus far, committed to playing.

The Americans compiled a national team pool of more than 30 players they can choose from, knowing top stars such as LeBron James are unlikely to want to play consecutive summers. They will trim that to a smaller number to invite to training camp in Las Vegas this summer, with the goal of getting the final roster of 12 players there.

Unlike Krzyzewski, who rarely saw his prospective players while coaching at Duke, Popovich is around them all the time during the NBA season.

“And hate half of them,” he joked. “It’s going to be really tough to coach them.”

USA Basketball leaders haven’t begun reaching out to World Cup prospects yet, needing to devote their time first to the revolving-door rosters of the qualifying games. With that behind them, national team managing director Jerry Colangelo and director Sean Ford can begin assembling the next team — without Popovich’s help.

“Jerry Colangelo has been the wizard of that, he’s been the guy who’s put those teams together along with Sean Ford,” Popovich said. “The two of them have done yeoman work over the years in putting the groups together and they’re good at it, so I’ll leave that to them.”