Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum

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Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker fueled by those who doubt Team USA

Nick Friar
August 21, 2019 - 4:55 pm

In recent international competitions, Team USA has carried multiple NBA All-Stars and All-NBA players on its roster. This has made it impossible to imagine Team USA losing a single game — they actually only lost one under Mike Krzyzewski (75-1).

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But the group representing the US in the 2019 FIBA World Cup is built a little differently. There’s only one 2019 All-NBA selection on the roster, Kemba Walker. And he was a third-teamer. No Steph Curry (First Team), LeBron James (Third Team) or Damian Lillard (Second Team), to name a few options. Khris Middleton was an all-star last season and Marcus Smart made the 2019 NBA All-Defensive First-Team, but that’s it.

Now, USA is the only team in the FIBA World Cup with a roster solely comprised of NBA players. And some of the younger guys are expected to become all-stars — Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma are examples. Team USA’s roster also features talented veterans who’ve yet to be NBA All-Stars (Myles Turner and Harrison Barnes), but it’s impossible to deny the team doesn’t have the same collective resume as it has in years past.

Now, instead of Team USA winning the FIBA World Cup being a foregone conclusion, there’s concern in the basketball community as to whether or not the group will fall short. Team USA’s players know this. They don’t necessarily understand why there’s this level of doubt, but they’re using it as extra motivation.

“It’s like they picked us up off the street,” Tatum told Marc. J Spears from The Undefeated. “We’re NBA players. We’re pretty good at what we do. It’s added a chip on our shoulder, and we’re going to take it with us.”

Walker feels similar to Tatum.

“We are embracing it as much as we can,” he said. “It’s adding fuel to the fire. A lot of us, it’s where we come from. We come from being underdogs, most of us.

“We’re hungry.”

Their next step in preparation for the FIBA World Cup comes on Thursday at 5:30 a.m. against Australia's national team.