Team USA was back in action today, spending time at West Point bonding and taking part in a light practice for “Hoops for Troops.” During the telecast, Sacramento Kings starting small forward Rudy Gay sat down with ESPN to talk about his experience.
The Sacramento Kings veteran is one of 16 players vying for 12 spots for the World Cup. He is not a shoo-in for the roster, which is exactly how he wanted it to be when he called coach Mike Krzyzewski and threw his hat in the ring two weeks ago.
“I told coach not to assure me anything,” Gay said of his chances of making the final roster. “I want to go out there and earn it.”
Gay was a late addition to the team, jumping aboard after the losses of Paul George and Kevin Durant. The 28-year-old wing credited coach Michael Malone and the ownership group for getting him involved with the Team USA program this summer.
“My coach in Sacramento called me about it and my agency called me about it and actually, ownership in Sacramento asked me about it,” Gay said during the telecast. “I remembered the time in 2010 when we won the championship and how much it helped the game, so I was all for it.”
While Gay has 28 games in international play under his belt, he will be asked to play in a different capacity this time around. He won’t be a primary scoring option, and he might not even see major action in the World Cup starting later this month in Spain.
“A leadership role, I guess,” the Sacramento Kings small forward said about what he could do for Team USA. “Someone who’s been there and knows what it takes to get back there. There are a lot of young guys on this team and a lot of guys and a lot guys with not that much experience FIBA wise. That’s something I can help them with.”
Without Durant, George, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, who are all out for the tournament, the team will play a different type of game than usual. Players like Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose, James Harden and Kyrie Irving are expected to carry the scoring load as Team USA transitions to a guard-heavy, up-tempo game.
“We can really press the ball on defense,” Gay said of one of Team USA’s strengths. “We have a lot of guys who get in passing lanes, a lot of guys that can pick up full-court. That’s something we can do.”
When asked about the upcoming season in Sacramento, Gay was positive about the team and pointed to the Kings needing to take each day to grow and get better as a unit.
“I see us building as a team,” Gay said of the Sacramento Kings this season. “Obviously, our young guys are getting older and more wiser. (DeMarcus) Cousins is becoming a star in this league and we really just have to go out there and grow every day.”
The 28-year-old forward is putting it all on the line for Team USA. He is in the final year of his contract that will pay him $19.3 million this season, but he will walk into next summer as an unrestricted free agent. The Sacramento Kings hope to retain him with either an extension before the season or as a free agent next summer.