Per USA Basketball, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan won’t be adding to his medal count this summer, as he has withdrawn from his position as an assistant to Gregg Popovich for Team USA, citing “schedule conflicts.”
While said conflict wasn’t specified in the press release that announced Atlanta’s Lloyd Pierce as his replacement, Indiana is on tap to play the league’s first-ever preseason games in India on Friday, October 4 and Saturday, October 5. Should Team USA advance to the gold medal round of the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China on September 15, the turnaround to prepare for the opening of training camp (which will likely be earlier than usual to account for overseas travel) would be short — not to mention jet-lagged.
Along with McMillan, Bojan Bogdanovic and Victor Oladipo also won’t be appearing in international competition during the upcoming offseason. After having advanced to the quarter-final round of the 2016 Olympics, Bogdanovic’s native Croatia was eliminated from contention during the second round of qualifying in February.
Part of the blame belongs to FIBA’s calendar reform. Outside of the windows played in late-June and mid-September, Croatia was without Bogdanovic, Dario Saric, Ivica Zubac, and Ante Zizic due to scheduling. That said, they also squandered opportunities when their heavy-hitters were available.
The Croatians lost both games in September, first falling to Lithuania by a point without Jonas Valanciunas or Domantas Sabonis; and, then, dropping a heart-breaker to Poland in which Bogdanovic poured in a team-high 22 points on 50 percent shooting despite having his leg stepped on early in the second quarter.
“It’s tough to talk after this kind of game,” Bogdanovic said at the time. “We did a little bit better job than the last game. We started very aggressive, but in the second half we didn’t play smart enough to keep them from scoring easy lay-ups and a couple of threes in transition and we had some unnecessary double teams that didn’t work. It’s tough for us, tough for our national team to be in this situation right now but we have to fight.”
Fight as they might, with qualification for the Olympic games now going through the World Cup, the prospective free agent who led all scorers in Rio appears destined to have a rare two summers off from wearing his national team’s jersey — unless, of course, Croatia is selected to participate in an Olympic qualifying tournament as one of two wildcard teams from Europe.
As for Oladipo, he was named to the 35-player pool of which Team USA’s 12-player roster for the World Cup will be selected, but his season-ending injury will obviously bar him from consideration. Myles Turner, however, after joining his All-Star teammate at USA Basketball’s two-day mini-camp, is still eligible to make the cut.
Turner made a strong impression with his performance on the Select Team which was mentored by Popovich and trained against the 2016 Olympic Team.
“Myles looked really good,” Paul George said of his former teammate at the time. “I think the whole talk around that camp was, ‘Man, you got a good one.’ That’s coming from all the guys on the Olympic team. Everybody was just raving of how good Myles is.”
Looking ahead to the end of this summer, if the expectation is that the finalized 12-member roster will be comprised of players from the 2018-20 USA National Team pool (as in, no late add-ins), Turner’s competition at the center position could turn out to be lighter than expected. DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love are both coming off seasons in which they missed 50+ games apiece, Draymond Green is entering a contract year, and Anthony Davis might just be settling in with a new team.
Regardless of how things ultimately shake out for Turner, Domantas Sabonis will likely be in uniform for Lithuania, as will Cory Joseph for Canada.
Lithuania is ranked No. 6 in the world and will face Canada, Australia, and Senegal during Group H games in Dongguan.
As it pertains to the Pacers, Sabonis, Turner (should he make the cut), and Joseph (should he re-sign) could each end up facing comparable schedule crunches to that which was dodged by McMillan; but, at least there’s potential there for them to gain in experience and exposure what they might lose in rest and recuperation.