Team USA cannot seem to catch a break in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Players kept withdrawing from the roster (before group play started), and the players who have stayed seem to keep getting injured.
The latest in a series of injuries is guard Marcus Smart, who is day-to-day with a quad strain. The presence of Smart will be missed in the lineup due to his ability to play strong defense throughout the game. Smart will join Boston Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum on the sideline, who is out with a sprained ankle. The presence of Tatum will be missed due to his unique scoring ability.
If these injuries had occurred before Team USA had even started practicing, or before the first game, there would not be much cause for concern. Smart, specifically, had somewhat been playing with an injury in training camp, as on the article ESPN released this morning, Smart missed most of Team USA’s training camp in August with a calf strain. Was there reason to think that another athlete should have taken Smart’s spot on the team? Props to Smart for being able to play against Turkey, but I am sure his Celtics teammates (and coaches) do not want him injured before the start of the NBA season.
The worst part about Smart’s injury is that it occurred right before countries are slated to advance to the knockout round, which Team USA has already qualified for. The opponent is not known yet, but with stacked teams like Serbia, Australia, and Lithuania, Team USA’s prospects do not look as good now before the Tatum and Smart injuries. In addition, with the Smart injury, Team USA is only down to 10 players on their roster. Good health is a must for the remainder of the tournament.
Next up for the Americans will be either Greece (Giannis Antetokounmpo), New Zealand (Corey Webster), or Brazil (Anderson Varejao). Each of these teams, particularly Greece and Brazil, are not going to be an easy victory like Japan (98-45 victory earlier today). To win in Round Two and advance even further, they will need to play their best basketball.
If Team USA can stay healthy, they can win the tournament, but it will not be easy.