USA Basketball's roster for the men's 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup isn't so much of a "who's who" as it is a "who's that?"
Star after star turned down the chance to don the red, white and blue this summer, leaving the Americans with their weakest collection of talent at a major international tournament in recent memory. Kings forward Harrison Barnes, a gold medalist at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, is one of the few players on the roster with international experience and the only one to win an NBA title.
That has made him a favorite of coach Gregg Poppovich, according to USA basketball assistant -- and Warriors head coach -- Steve Kerr.
“Pop trusts him,” Kerr told The Athletic's Joe Vardon. “Pop talks about it all the time with our staff. He knows he can count on him to make the right play and to execute under pressure.”
Barnes won a title with Kerr and the Warriors in 2015, and was a key part of the team that won an NBA-record 73 games and finished one win shy of a second consecutive championship in the 2015-16 campaign. That kind of big-game experience in the pros is lacking on the rest of the roster, as evidenced by the end of the Americans' 78-game international win streak last week.
Although Barnes averaged just 8.5 points per game through four pre-tournament tuneup games, he knows he will be relied upon to set an example for his less experienced teammates.
“Just from what I’ve seen from our experience so far, trying to help guys understand what it means to play on an international stage and what we’re going to have to go through to win it,” Barnes told Vardon. “Anytime you have championship experience, whether it was just that journey of going through it, whether it was in ’15 or ’16, whatever it is, that just helps you in this process because you have eight games to lock in and do something special.”
Team USA opens the tournament in China on Sunday against the Czech Republic. The Americans are no longer certain favorites, as they have been for the entirety of the last decade, and Barnes is one of many players who will be asked to rise to the occasion.
His coaches seem to think he will.