(Reuters) - The United States will head to next month’s basketball World Cup without LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or Kobe Bryant, but will remain the team to beat with a potential lineup led by National Basketball Association most valuable player Kevin Durant.
USA Basketball announced on Monday the 19 players who will be auditioning for the American World Cup squad at a training camp in Las Vegas from July 28 to Aug. 1.
Although some of the NBA’s biggest names declined invitations, the U.S. talent pool is so deep they are unlikely to be missed when the final 12-man roster for Spain is selected.
All 19 players boast prior USA Basketball experience. The pool includes four members of the gold medal-winning 2012 Olympic team and five of the 2010 world championship squad.
James, a four-time NBA MVP who last week left the Miami Heat to join the Cleveland Cavaliers, headlines a list of all-star absentees that includes Anthony, who signed with the New York Knicks on Sunday, free agent Dwyane Wade and Miami’s Chris Bosh.
But with Oklahoma City Thunder’s Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer last season, and Chicago Bulls former league MVP Derrick Rose vying for spots, the U.S. will not lack experience or quality when they fly to Spain for the Aug. 30-Sept. 14 tournament.
“We never really expected any of those players to participate in this competition,” said team managing director Jerry Colangelo during a conference call. “That was a foregone conclusion, after conversations with them, that they would not.
“If you think back to 2008, when we won the (Olympic) gold medal in Beijing and then had a completely different 12 in Istanbul, where we won the world champions, and in London (Olympics) in 2012, the roster was a 50/50 split of those from 2008 and 2010.
“So, to maintain the continuity, we need turnover at every competition so that players who aspire to represent the USA have a real opportunity.”
While two-time Olympic champions James, Anthony and Chris Paul have decided to sit out the World Cup, Colangelo made it clear the door is open for all three to return and earn a place in the team for the 2016 Rio Summer Games.
The team will be coached by Mike Krzyzewski, who guided the U.S. to Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012 and a world championship crown in 2010, compiling a near spotless 43-1 record in official FIBA (International Basketball Federation) or FIBA Americas competitions since 2006.
The reigning Olympic and world champions expect to trim the roster to 15, after the Las Vegas training camp, and then make final cuts before leaving for Spain.
“Basically, what we have learned over the years is be flexible, be adaptable — and that is why the pool idea was brilliant,” said Krzyzewski.
“Everyone feels like they are part of it, you are not just adding and subtracting from a 12-man roster you put out without knowing anybody.
“When we meet, we will have done that before. We will know each other, we know how to rely on one another and the players will feed off that because there is a continuity and that is a huge thing.”
The World Cup will involve 24 countries with the U.S. in Group C for preliminary round play against Finland, the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Turkey and Ukraine.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Tony Goodson and Tim Collings