Damian Lillard was cut from Team USA last week after Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski decided to take four centers and only take Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, and fomer Duke star Kyrie Irving at point guard. Lillard didn't express any bitterness over the decision, wishing the team well.
If something unfortunate were to occur while the team is in Spain for the World Cup however, Lillard would be first in line. From CSN Northwest:
Prior to being left off of the final 12-man roster last week, the Portland Trail Blazers' All-Star point guard was informed that there could be a possibility he'd be added to the roster if one of their players, in particular Derrick Rose who has been dealing with knee soreness, were unable or opted not to continue the journey, a league source told CSNNW.com.
“He's the player on deck,” we're told.
Lillard expressed to Jerry Colangelo, director of USA Basketball, his desire to be a part of Team USA in Spain and said he would rejoin the team if his services are indeed needed, the source said.
“It's something we did discuss with Damian,” Colangelo confirmed to CSNNW.com via telephone. “We'll see what happens.”
Rose aleady missed time in the exhibition season due to "soreness" after missing most of last season after his second major knee surgery in two years. The tournament features a heavy schedule, including starting right off with a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday vs. Finland and Turkey.
Lillard can shoot from the outside at a superior clip to Irving, posted better defensive numbers last season than Irving, and is a better floor manager than Rose. Given his maturity, leadership, and clutch shot making over the first two years of his career, it's a little surprising he was left out in the first place. But at least he was last-out and is first-in if Team USA needs a body.
Team USA opens group play at the 2014 FIBA World Cup Saturday at 3:30 p.m ET vs. Finland, who according to several internet sportsbooks opened as 35-point underdogs. Should be a barnburner.