The cream of the crop always finds a way to rise to the top, and even while playing with some of the best this country has to offer, Rajon Rondo has managed to break through. Just weeks, after some reporters around the team questioned whether the point guard would even make the final roster, Rondo started and excelled in two Team USA scrimmages over the weekend, establishing himself as a favorite to get the starting nod once the FIBA’s start in Turkey in two weeks.
The highlight of the weekend was a 31 point demolition by Team USA against France in Madison Square Garden yesterday afternoon. Rondo delivered a very efficient line of 6 points on 3/4 shooting (all layups), 6 assists, and 2 rebounds in 18 minutes of action. This came on the heels of a 7 assist effort in a closed scrimmage against China on Saturday. A. Sherrod Blakely from CSNNE.com covered the festivities from The Big Apple, where Rondo’s teammates and coach heaped praise on the youngster:
“I like playing with Rondo,” Billups said. “He’s a winner. I love playing with winners; guys that know how to play the game. Guys that every possession know what it means.”
Chandler said having a pass-first playmaker on the floor has made his job a lot easier.
“He’s looking every single time,” Chandler said. “For the big man, sometimes you’re guessing, ‘Is he shooting? Should I attack the boards, or is he passing?’ So it’s good to know, he’s looking to pass first.”
His playmaking is certainly important for Team USA.
But arguably just as important will be what he brings to the floor defensively.
“It starts with Rondo,” said Team USA and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “He wants to play defense. And he knows that the people behind him are playing defense, too.”
So with Rondo as a shoe-in for the starting five, how will the rest of the roster shake out?
The roster was officially trimmed down to 13 during the weekend with Javale McGee being cut for a 2nd time this summer (he was injury replacement for Brook Lopez after 1st cut) and Jeff Green being sent home early.
No real surprises with either of those guys. McGee can barely crack the Wizard starting lineup, and was really here more out of necessity than anything else after the plethora of injuries to other USA big men.
Green is a solid player, but really was in over his head at the wing position compared to the other options on this roster. Impressive of him to make it this far, but still needs a couple more years of seasoning to hang with the established wings/small 4′s on this roster.
That brings us down to one cut, which unsurprisingly will come down to the backcourt. Blakely speculates the candidates for the final pink slip to be Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon and Stephen Curry. A look over the rest of the roster though makes me think Westbrook is the easy choice to go home here. This team needs shooting and although Gordon and Curry may have flaws in other parts of their game this early in their career, both players can shoot the rock, especially from deep.
On the other hand, Westbrook (22 percent career 3 point shooter) clearly is limited with is outside shoot. With two similar style players in Rondo and Derrick Rose in front of the Thunder guard in the depth chart already, keeping Westbrook on the roster seems rather redundant.
Coach K and his troops have until 72 hours before the August 25th start of the tournament to trim their roster down to 12, so they have brought a 13 man roster overseas for some friendlies during the next 10 days. Chris Sheridan from ESPN.com will be traveling with the team throughout the next week, so be sure to keep up with him on twitter and on the mothership for any updates.
In the meantime, I have to say this must be very fulfilling for Mr. Rondo. From not even knowing if he would participate at all with Team USA this summer due to health concerns, to being on the verge of getting the starting nod over the likes of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook says a lot. I’d like to also point out that while some speculated Rondo might not make this final roster, everyone involved with Team USA has been singing this guy’s praises from the very beginning.
For all his shooting flaws, you put a proper supporting cast around the 6’1” point guard and he will run the ship and do it well. That’s to say nothing of his defense, ball handling ability, penetration and tremendous court vision. Kudos to the guy for getting even more recognition now, with more to come on the international stage in two weeks.
In the meantime, I ask you guys this. 1) Who makes the final cut? And 2) What is your starting five for this team? On Sunday, it was Rondo, Billups, Iguodala, Durant and Chandler. Do they stick with those five or insert another scorer like Gay to help with offense?
Also in case you missed it last week, you can check out CelticsHub’s Team USA World Championship Preview, where we break down the roster, rule changes, past World Championships, and how this year’s team stacks up against the World competition.
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