Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is now one step closer to becoming a member of Team USA.
On Thursday morning, USA Basketball announced their preliminary roster the 2014-2016 edition of Team USA and, along with 27 others, Irving was included on the list. From here, a smaller number of the 28 will be selected to participate in the 2014 USA National Team opening training camp in July.
Working in Irving’s favor here – especially for next summer’s 2014 FIBA Basketball World Championship – is that the other point guards he is competing against are dealing with a variety of injury problems. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook will be coming off a season where he missed chunks of the season due to multiple knee surgeries, while Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls will be fighting an uphill battle recovering from meniscus surgery. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers will also not be playing for Team USA this number, as Paul, LeBron James of the Miami Heat and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks are being held out by Team USA. All three, however, will be eligible to play come 2016.
This could mean Irving will be competing against Portland Trail Blazer’s guard Damian Lillard and Golden State’s Stephen Curry for the starting point guard spot this summer and for a leg up on a spot on the 2016 Olympic team.
One factor that could work in his favor is that the coach of Team USA in the upcoming cycle is Mike Krzyzewski. Krzyewski was Irving’s coach in Irving’s one season as a Duke Blue Devil. Speaking to media today on a conference call, Coach K had nothing but nice things to say about Irving. Via The Plain Dealer:
“I’m not surprised with anything Kyrie is doing,” Krzyzewski said. “I knew in high school when I saw him that he had not just special athletic talents, but he has special mental and people talent. He’s got the whole package. He’s grounded, and nothing that he does will surprise me.