Why USA Basketball will use non-NBA players for FIBA World Cup qualifying

Major changes are set to take place for USA Basketball due to a change in the qualifying structure of the FIBA World Cup. As a result, USA Basketball will be forced to attempt to qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup using a rotating squad made up primarily of NBA D-League players. Because most of the qualifying games will take place during the NBA season, the NBA won't release players to represent their national times -- and why would they? 

Here's a look at when the FIBA qualifying games are scheduled.

  • Nov. 20-28, 2017
  • Feb. 19-27, 2018
  • June 25-July 3, 2018
  • Aug. 30-Sep. 8, 2018
  • Nov. 26-Dec. 4, 2018
  • Feb. 18-26, 2019

"Players selected to represent the USA in the World Cup Qualifying games are expected to primarily be from the NBA Development League, which will be known as the NBA Gatorade League beginning with the 2017-18 season," USA Basketball stated in a release on Tuesday.

Another possibility, Marc Stein says, might be possible is recruiting Americans who might be playing overseas to compete during the qualifying windows.

Here's Stein with more on that and what the changes might mean for the coaching situation moving forward.

Another possibility, according to USA Basketball sources, ‎is recruiting Americans who are playing abroad in selected leagues that will consent to releasing players for qualifying windows.

New USA Basketball head coach Gregg Popovich will be engaged with his San Antonio Spurs responsibilities during the NBA season. Sources said that one option USAB has considered is employing multiple head coaches during the various qualifying periods for the fresh rosters that will be selected for each of the six two-game qualifying sets to come.

But the more likely scenario for now, sources said, is the hiring of one coach not currently in charge of an NBA team to handle the 12 qualifying games before Popovich is scheduled to debut as Team USA head coach at the 2019 World Cup, replacing the highly successful Mike Krzyzewski.

USA Basketball has cleaned shop in recent international competition, winning gold medals in each of its last five major competitions. The decision from FIBA to hold qualifying events was almost certainly made knowing full well that it would take place during the NBA season. So the new format, fair or not, hurts Team USA in a way that other teams might not be affected. It remains to be seen whether or not the change will hurt USA Basketball and what type of team it might be able to assemble to attempt to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

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