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USA Basketball will not require players to sign up for World Cup to make Olympic roster

Australia Opals v United States

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 16: A USA Basketball logo is shown on the scoreboard before an exhibition game between the Australia Opals and the United States at Michelob ULTRA Arena ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 16, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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When Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski made their first steps to turning around the USA Basketball men’s program almost two decades ago, one of their first steps was a mandate to force continuity: If a player wanted to be on the Olympic roster, they had to commit to the World Cup as well.

New USA Basketball president Grant Hill says it’s time to move on from that. Here’s his quote, via Brian Windhorst at ESPN:

“There’s no commitment necessary, no ‘if you want to play in the Olympics, you have to play here,’” Hill said Monday... “I understood why that was implemented and I think it was tremendously successful...But we feel like we had to make a change in that regard. So no tryouts, no commitment.”

“You have to adapt to the times,” Hills said. “If you looked at the NBA, it has changed tremendously. It’s changed since I retired in 2013. Every generation’s different and it’s important for us as leadership, particularly USA Basketball, to recognize that and be willing to adapt with that change.”

This is not entirely new, even for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 USA Basketball did not have a tryout and cuts, and it did not require a previous World Cup commitment (although the pandemic threw the timing of all of that off). Hill is taking the next step, which he has to make if he wants to land the best American talent.

Part of the need for a change can be laid at the feet of FIBA. Basketball’s international governing body changed its basketball calendar and now has the Word Cup one year before the Olympics — asking a commitment for both events means requesting a player to give up consecutive summers to the national program. While plenty of players would still be up for that, considering the NBA’s focus on rest and recovery, the very best (and often slightly older) players who use the offseason to rest and prepare their bodies for the marathon of the NBA grind will not give up two offseasons in a row.

Hill said he has been in conversations with interested players about this year’s World Cup, but the roster is evolving due to injuries, plus a long playoff run could impact the decision of some players USA Basketball would want on the team. There will be a 12-man roster named and they will start camp this summer in Las Vegas, before heading to Abu Dhabi and eventually on to the World Cup in the Philippines.

The World Cup is this September, with the USA playing all its games in Manila (the USA has already qualified). The 2024 Olympic Games are in Paris. Warriors coach Steve Kerr will head USA Basketball for both tournaments.