Too soon? Maybe. Yesterday morning, we finished off Spain in a game that was entirely too close for comfort after Team USA smoked everyone else throughout the Olympics. Now, just 24 hours later, the gold medal celebration has worn off and we can start looking forward to 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
We’re not the only ones happy to see an actual USA Basketball program (it was worth it, the results speak for themselves). Many of the opposing Olympic coaches were quoted, saying how difficult it was to play against Team USA now that they have a team rather than just running through a list and picking out the best players available. But times change. Guys get older. The LeBron/Carmelo/D-Wade/CP3 contingent will be broken up one way or another before the 2016 Games, and we should count ourselves lucky if we get even two of those guys to play in Brazil (Ed. note: And you never know. If David Stern has his ways, we might not get any of these guys at some point in the very near future. An under-23 age rule doesn’t seem likely for 2016, but we’ve seen crazier things from Stern. Like vetoing trades.).
Changes in the roster are unavoidable, but even the coaching at the top will be different in four years.
The more we hear, the more it sounds like Mike Krzyzewski will leave USA Basketball on a high note: two Gold Medals, the first coach to do that for Team USA in over 40 years, a 62-1 record that includes winning his last 53 games, and after busting out his eight-inch vertical in the final moments yesterday, probably sore knees. If he does go through with it, there are a number of different candidates. We’ve outlined our top five. Doc Rivers is also a viable choice, and was tongue-tied during Olympic coverage whenever they asked him about Coach K’s job. He definitely wants it, and I’d say he’s one of the top three candidates. Outside of Tracy McGrady, every star he’s ever had loved him, and as he’s gotten older, Rivers is becoming an even better coach, learning to navigate injuries, younger threats and complacency with Boston.
But as we’ve written before, Gregg Popovich needs to find his way onto the USA bench. He’s the best in the business, won’t take anything too seriously and will undoubtedly get the Americans to play the me-last basketball they’ll need to win a third-straight gold medal.
Who he’d have with him is a little trickier. Kobe is done. He said so himself. Tyson Chandler is virtually a lock to stay home as well. He’ll be 33 in 2016, and considering he was nothing more than a foul machine this summer, we doubt he somehow improves his feet, hands and awareness in the years in-between. So there goes 40 percent of the starting lineup.
Where we are strongest at is with our point guards. We have so many they’ll most likely need to tell someone to stay home. We all know how that goes (Rajon Rondo just punched his computer screen). It’s the most competitive position in the NBA, and helps give us an edge on virtually every international team out there (you know it’s a deep spot when I’m going to go for a few paragraphs and not mention John Wall here). Unless their name is Juan Carlos Navarro and they’re hitting all types of shots out of their ass, they can’t compete. I’d be surprised to see Paul still playing in 2016, not because he can’t, but because he’s already been a big contributor on two gold medal teams. At that point, he’ll be 31 years old and will have more important things to worry about, like navigating the Clipper curse (if he’s even still there). Same for Deron Williams (or he’ll see the writing on the wall and bow out before someone at Team USA has to tell him “We love you, but we’re going with the younger guys instead”).
Kyrie Irving will absolutely be on the team, especially after watching him turn Russell Westbrook into a pawn in Irving’s own personal Select Team mixtape. As long as he doesn’t go buy a motorcycle, pull off wheelies in parking lots and then end up butchering his lower body, he’ll be there. He’s the new spice. Everyone loves him. Plus, he looks like the perfect replacement for CP3 because the two of them are so similar in temperament and individual style. After Irving, there’s Derrick Rose. Before his injury, you could’ve argued Rose was the best point guard in the league. Yet I think that cataclysmic knee tear will have him skipping out on the 2014 World Championships to stay healthy. Whereas we once thought of him as the future for Team USA in the backcourt, he’s more of a luxury at this point (at least until he proves he’s 100 percent).
Russell Westbrook should still be around if he wants to as well. He can sometimes play the two, and be that game-changer who comes in like he’s a kid on a reckless sugar high.