After the recent failure of the USA Basketball team in China at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post's Ben Golliver discuss the future of Team USA, Zion Williamson and more on the latest Open Floor podcast.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Ben Golliver: Bottom line if we're trying to fix Team USA for the future the answer is not Carmelo Anthony or Joe Johnson. Look the answer is Zion Williamson. We need to build a new young core for USA Basketball. We need to have a superstar face of that organization. The most qualified person right now as you've laid out there's not a lot of under 25 star power who are Americans.
The best shot at getting a guy who can sort of have that LeBron like magnetism where he gets everybody tuning in, he dominates and he captivates like I said should be the national goals for this program, and it's Zion. And then he can start getting guys like Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. and all these guys are going to want to play you know on the Zion USA basketball team. I think they need to recruit like crazy to get him on the Olympic squad for next summer. Yeah obviously they need to go back to LeBron.
I think that if you had a team with LeBron, Steph and Zion that's just a lights out squad for Tokyo and I think that would go a long way to kind of regaining some momentum, some pride and some mystique that USA Basketball should have. But to me like the long term solution if we're talking like the next 10 years or USA Basketball it needs to be built around Zion.
Sharp: Well it would also be fun to see Kevin Durant perhaps use the Tokyo Olympics to kind of re-enter the basketball world
Golliver: Don't this don't do this Andrew. We're not trying to rush him back. Why are you doing this to me?
Sharp: His health comes first. I'm just saying it would be kind of a fun stage for him to re-enter.
Golliver: How fun would it be? If he sprained his ankle which is the exact same way that Jayson Tatum sprained his ankle—how fun would that be in next year's Olympics?
Sharp: Yeah, it wouldn't be fun. You got me there.
Golliver: That would be worse than watching the Pistons for a year with root canal Reggie. I mean that would be I would have to turn my television off that if that happened.
Sharp: Way to go out on a limb about KD’s injury at next year's Olympics. That would be a bad development for everyone. If I’m Paul George and he breaks his leg again on Team USA, no one would be cheering for that.
Golliver: I'm just saying there is a risk factor to bringing him back early. Let's put KD in bubble wrap. I saw some pictures of him trying on the Nets jersey and part of me was like pretty excited and part of me was like are we sure we can't film this in a wheelchair? Like what can we do to just protect Kevin from himself and keep this thing going slowly.
Sharp: The other guys who could play over the next few or over next year. I mean Damian Lillard—like you don't even have to draw exclusively from the MVP pool. Damian Lillard can play but C.J. McCollum would have helped this team a lot. Bradley Beal would have helped this team a lot. Someone like Trae Young, someone like Zach LaVine or D'Angelo Russell like get some of these guys who can actually shoot and guards who can actually create and you're going to have a much higher baseline and then obviously if you get LeBron and AD.
I feel like LeBron and AD are kind of a package deal for Team USA and but if you get them and Steph, I mean the rest of the world is doomed. So we'll wait and see on all that. I still maintain that Carmelo Anthony should have a lifetime appointment on Team USA. If anything just as sort of like the 12th man player coach he can wear a captain's hat from whatever yacht Team USA is staying on. I would support all of it. But either way, USA Basketball will bounce back in 2020. I don't think this is a crisis.