After two weeks of build-up, Saturday’s news that De’Aaron Fox had removed himself from the Team USA World Cup roster came as a shock.
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes, the Kings point guard made the decision so he could “focus on [the] upcoming season with [the] goal of making [the] playoffs," which is great for Sacramento but also slightly confusing.
Fox had been nothing but all in on the experience throughout Team USA camp in Las Vegas two weeks ago and again this week in Los Angeles. Both on and off the record, Fox expressed excitement about the process and the potential of playing for Team USA.
Fox turned heads with his speed and shooting ability, and up until halftime of Friday night’s game against Spain, he looked like Team USA’s backup point guard behind Kemba Walker.
Following the 90-81 win over Spain at Honda Center, NBC Sports California spoke to Fox, and he said was honored to wear the Team USA uniform.
“It was definitely great to play against a different country. This was my first time doing it,” Fox said. “I definitely had a blast doing it.”
When asked if he was boarding a plane for Australia the next day, Fox, like the rest of the team, had yet to be notified of they were making the squad, and said, “We’ll find out.”
Team USA Gregg Popovich announced after the game that all 14 finalists vying for 12 roster spots would make the trip to Australia, to prepare for the tournament, which starts Aug. 31 in China.
After playing just six minutes against Spain, Fox had to have some apprehension over his situation with Team USA. Dropping everything and boarding the team plane means spending a minimum of 12 days in Australia, with the potential for another 17 days in China after that.
You need to be sure about what the commitment means before jumping in with both feet. Venturing on the road with no assurances of making the squad is a tall ask, but that’s exactly what Popovich and Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo asked of Fox and others Friday night.
While the experience could help with Fox’s development — and likely already has — it also would put a tremendous amount of wear and tear on the 21-year-old. Just in airline flights alone, he’d be looking at close to 20,000 miles with Team USA.
With the Kings already booked on an October preseason trip to India, Fox would be committing himself to nearly 40,000 miles in the air over an eight-week period leading up to an 82-game regular-season schedule. Adding to the equation, the Kings will travel the third-most miles in the NBA this upcoming season, including two trips to both New York and Florida.
Kings swingman Harrison Barnes decided to stay with Team USA, but he also started the game against Spain, and has all but secured a roster spot as one of the longest-tenured players. Barnes also is a seasoned veteran who has been through this process before and knows what lies ahead.
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In the end, it’s disappointing that Fox won’t be fighting for a gold medal with the national team, but he likely made the best decision for himself and the Kings.
The NBA schedule is a brutal, and Fox is expected to carry a huge load for his team this season as it attempts to end a 13-year playoff drought. Having fresh legs and a fresh mind when training camp opens in late September is a must.