Paul George’s broken right leg has already created questions about the future of NBA players in international competitions.
The U.S. national team can’t worry about that now. The Americans’ immediate concerns are his health, and what they have to do to win without him.
The Americans have 16 players left in their roster pool after cutting three Tuesday — and 25 days to determine which of them can fill the role that George would have handled.
“He’s a guy that would demand significant minutes … even on a U.S. team, where he probably would’ve been a starter,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said during a conference call, noting that George could have played some power forward along with small forward.
“Paul is one of the great defensive players in the league,” Krzyzewski added. “So earlier in the week we had talked — he had even come up to me and said, ‘Coach, that’s the role I want. I want to be able to defend whoever is the best perimeter player. Whoever you want me to be on, I want to do that for you.’ And so you lose a player of that caliber, you take a hit.”
The Americans trimmed the roster by cutting Washington’s John Wall and Bradley Beal, and Atlanta’s Paul Millsap. They have to get down to 12 before the World Cup of Basketball begins Aug. 30 in Spain.
The players remaining are: Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Houston’s James Harden, Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Dallas’ Chandler Parsons, Utah’s Gordon Hayward, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee.
George would have been on the team but was injured when his leg crashed into the bottom of the basket stanchion after he tried to block a shot during the Americans’ intrasquad exhibition game Friday in Las Vegas. He had surgery early Saturday and was expected to return to Indiana this week.