Sacramento Kings

Team USA says it ‘understands De’Aaron’s decision’ after ESPN singles out Kings guard

A USA Basketball spokesman responded Saturday to comments made on ESPN suggesting Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox would not be allowed to represent Team USA in the future because he withdrew from consideration for this summer’s FIBA World Cup team.

On Thursday’s episode of “The Jump,” an ESPN panelist wondered what Fox was “saving himself for” and speculated he would not be invited back by USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo. USA Basketball communications director Craig Miller dismissed that notion, telling The Sacramento Bee that Team USA “understands De’Aaron’s decision.”

Fox and Kings teammate Marvin Bagley III were initially invited to training camp in Las Vegas as members of the Select Team, a group of younger players who gain USA Basketball experience while helping the national team prepare for competition. Due to their impressive play, Fox and Bagley were moved up to the pool of players who were evaluated for the World Cup team.

Fox, Bagley and Kings small forward Harrison Barnes were among the final 14 players being considered for the 12-man roster. Fox and Bagley withdrew before the team headed overseas, saying they wanted to focus on the upcoming NBA season in Sacramento.

The Kings are hoping to end a 13-year playoff drought after finishing ninth in the Western Conference last season. They will take a 19-hour flight to India for two preseason games against the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 4-5, so the travel demands would have been considerable for Fox had he accompanied Team USA to Australia and China.

“Given De’Aaron was added into consideration for the World Cup team after originally being part of the USA Select Team in Las Vegas, USA Basketball understands De’Aaron’s decision,” Miller told The Bee.

Dozens of more established NBA stars withdrew before Fox, leaving the United States with a depleted roster. Team USA finished seventh in the tournament with an 87-74 victory over Poland on Saturday, America’s worst showing in a major tournament since NBA players were allowed to participate beginning in 1992.

Team USA’s World Cup roster featured only four of the 35 players originally selected for the player pool. The list of players who backed out included LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Victor Oladipo, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, C.J. McCollum and Paul George.

For some reason, though, Fox was singled out in a discussion between Rachel Nichols, Richard Jefferson and Amin Elhassan on “The Jump.”

“Will De’Aaron Fox ever be able to play for the USA team?” Jefferson asked.

“No, not as long as Jerry Colangelo is in charge,” Elhassan said.

Colangelo has not publicly indicated any ill will toward Fox, but he expressed his general frustration to reporters earlier this week in China, saying, “You can’t help but notice and remember who you thought you were going to war with and who didn’t show up.”

Colangelo indicated USA Basketball would move swiftly to assemble a stronger and more stable roster for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

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Jason Anderson is an award-winning sportswriter for The Sacramento Bee. He started his journalism career at The Bee more than 20 years ago and returned to cover the Sacramento Kings in September 2018.