It's been just over two weeks since Paul George suffered a major right leg injury which cut the USA Basketball Showcase in Las Vegas short. But basketball goes on.
While the World Cup is just two weeks away, Team USA, with or without John Wall and Bradley Beal must see what they have against other international teams. First up? A Saturday evening match against team Brazil, starring Nene.
Here's a quick preview:
Where and when? 9 p.m. in Chicago. The game will be played in the United Center.
Is it on TV? Yes, the game is on ESPN. You can also stream it online through WatchESPN.
Which NBA players are on Team Brazil? Nene's there, and that alone is a reason to watch the game. He gave a quick video preview to Monumental Network's Jumoke Davis, which you can see above, or click here if you can't see the embed.
Other NBA players on Team Brazil include Cleveland Cavaliers post Anderson Varejao, San Antonio Spurs post Tiago Splitter, and free agent guard Leandro Barbosa, who last played with the Phoenix Suns in the 2013-14 season. You may recall that he was traded to the Wizards in the Jordan Crawford trade back in the 2012-13 season. 2013 now sounds like a real long time ago.
Here's something else to consider with the Brazilian NBA players. They all either are starters on their NBA teams, or in Barbosa's case, had experience being in major roles. It's not like they're NBA 12th men who are on an international team. So yeah, Team USA needs to take notice.
And even though he is not in the NBA, Team Brazil's starting point guard, Marcelinho Huertas is a very decorated player in the Euroleague. During the 2013-14 season, he led F.C. Barcelona to the Liga Endesa title in Spain, and an appearance in the Euroleague Final Four, where Barcelona finished in third place.
Where does Team Brazil have an advantage? As you might have guessed, it's in the low post positions. Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, and Mason Plumlee are not scrubs by any means, but they also aren't as experienced as the NBA players who are on the Brazilian team. And Cousins will sit out Saturday's game due to a knee injury.
We all know what Nene can do for the Wizards when healthy. Then, Splitter and Varejao are strong defenders.
That leads me to the next advantage Brazil has, which is the team's collective experience.
The average age of the Brazilian roster is 29 years old, and nine players are older than 30, according to the roster on FIBA.com. The average age of the Team USA roster on the other hand is 25 years old, and many of the players on this team do not play for winning teams. Also, notice that the 24 year old Plumlee was omitted due to an error I assume, so the roster age will only be younger than that.
When you consider the fact that Brazil's best strengths just happens to be the USA's worst weakness, and that the team is veteran-savvy, it is no surprise that they're confident heading into the World Cup, let alone this exhibition. Here's a feature on the team from FIBA.com.
Finally, remember that Team Brazil played a very strong game against Team USA at Verizon Center back in 2012, even though they lost, 80-69. All of the top players from the Brazilian team are back, and they know how to play together. Team USA only brings back two players from the 2012 team with Davis and James Harden. In the 2012 game, Harden was a reserve, and Davis earned a DNP-Coach's Decision.
Who wins? Even though Team USA will have fits with the frontcourt, if Coach K can ensure that the game's pace is high, the Americans should be favored to win the game. And I believe that Team USA, even without Kevin Durant, Paul George, and the House of Guards, should be favored to win, especially in front of an American audience.
That said, if Brazil plays a slower tempo and if the bigs get involved, don't be surprised if this game goes the other way. A loss would be an upset, sure. But the days of any Team USA loss to another Top-10 FIBA squad being an epic shock are over.