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James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets

James Harden Pulls Out Of 2019 FIBA World Cup To Focus On Rockets

With the FIBA World Cup set to commence just over a month from now, head coach Gregg Popovich and USA Basketball will reportedly play without James Harden‘s services, as the former NBA MVP withdrew himself from the team due to his apparent singular focus on the Rockets this offseason.

Poised to ally once more with another former NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook, Harden plans to shift his focus on figuring out an effective play style for the team that utilizes both players’ exceptional talents. The Rockets acquired Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder after offering up Chris Paul and some draft picks to complete the mid–July exchange. With the duo both accustomed to serving as their team’s primary ball-handler, the Rockets appear destined to go through some growing pains before figuring things out. Harden’s move to leave Team USA certainly comes as an effort to take on and hopefully overcome these growing pains early.

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With similar motives, new Los Angeles Laker Anthony Davis announced his plans to omit playing for Team USA earlier this summer as well. Davis, who now on the Lakers pairs beside LeBron James, offers the Lakers another world-class player, yet also likely requires some time to figure things out with James before the pair begins the 2019-2020 season. Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons also prioritized his NBA preparation over the FIBA World Cup earlier this week when he announced his withdrawal from Team Australia.

Although Harden certainly leaves a void with his departure, USA Basketball remains flooded with capable talents ready to step into Harden’s role such as Damien Lillard, Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris and Kemba Walker.

The tournament runs from September 1–15 and invites the best basketball players from all countries across the world to participate. The venue stretches all across China, with various cities hosting multiple games. Even without Harden, Team USA confidently awaits a chance to win gold for the third consecutive time, after most recently defeating Serbia in 2014.

 

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Written by Collin Helwig

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