Team USA is in the final stages of its preparation for the World Cup that starts for the Americans on August 30 and carries on well into September. Tonight, they get to take a look at how far they have come, and still need to go, when they scrimmage Brazil in Chicago. It will televised at 9:00 pm ET on ESPN, which means we will get a look as well.
Our American side is quite different than the teams we saw play each other in an intra-squad scrimmage two weeks ago. John Wall has been cut, Kevin Durant has opted out, and Paul George suffered a horrific injury. Those are three really good basketball players, and any team would have trouble replacing them. It'll be interesting to see what coach Mike Krzyzewski does to offset the loss of players on the wing. Rudy Gay has been added to the team, but it's unclear if he has a real shot to make the final 12 man roster.
One tactic that I'm sure Coach K was already planning on using will probably become even more beneficial to the team. Steph Curry is a point guard in Golden State, but for the US will likely be asked to play off the ball a bit. This puts more on the plate of Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, and potentially Damian Lillard. Irving has been described by ESPN's Marc Stein as a lock to make the final roster, which is pretty exciting. Maximizing his time playing with and learning with Steph Curry will be helpful. Going into a season in which he will play with LeBron James, Dion Waiters, and Kevin Love, it makes it all the more important for him to get time playing with other ball-dominant players with Team USA.
So going into tonight's game, I'm both excited on a basic level to see Irving play, but I'll also be seeing how he does when the ball isn't in his hands.
Of course, with the team playing Brazil, we have another player to keep our eye on. Brazil has several NBA players including Nene and Tiago Splitter, but our favorite is Anderson Varejao. I'm curious to see what Varejao's body looks like. Last summer he got married, was coming off a life threatening medical scare, and the Cavs tried to replace him in the starting lineup by adding Andrew Bynum. He didn't get off to a great start. This year there is, quite clearly, a bit more to play for the Cavaliers. It's also a contract year for Varejao. Maybe it's false optimism, but even though Varejao is getting a bit older, I'm expecting a pretty good season from him. Given that the Cavs will likely wake up on August 23rd with only three functional NBA big men in Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Varejao himself, there's a bit of urgency to it.
Really, it's just fun to watch basketball so I'm pumped. Hopefully Irving and Varejao (and the rest of Team USA) make us proud.