USA Basketball trims roster to 13 finalists

The National Team roster has been trimmed to 13 finalists:

Seimone Augustus
Sue Bird
Tina Charles
Candice Dupree
Brittney Griner
Jantel Lavender
Angel McCoughtry
Maya Moore
Nnemkadi Ogwumike
Odyssey Sims
Breanna Stewart
Diana Taurasi
Lindsay Whalen

The above-linked piece mentions that Griner is expected to join the team Sept. 24. But it makes no mention of the players who were cut today: Skylar Diggins, Kayla McBride and Stefanie Dolson. Nor do any of the major outlets mention these athletes being cut. It’s perplexing.

It’s been my experience recently that USA Basketball is reluctant to come out and say they have cut players. Now it looks like they can’t even name them in print.

If you’re going to be a big-time organization and make major decisions, you need to cop to them. Just be up front and say who’s been cut.

Diggins, McBride and Dolson didn’t play in the USA’s loss to France today, and aren’t even in the box score. Fan indignance over that turned to outrage as news of the cuts leaked out. Twitter has been a spew-fest ever since.

Notre Dame fans say Diggins and McBride were cut because National Team head coach Geno Auriemma and Irish coach Muffet McGraw don’t get along.

Other debates have been raging as to whether the three cut today, as well as the four cut last weekend – Chiney Ogwumike, Briann January, Danielle Robinson and Bria Hartley – should have been kept for some of the others on the finalist roster.

The third line of discussion is which athlete will be the last to be cut.

It is a political dialogue, whichever side of it fans happen to be on.

As usual, I can see both sides of issues. I don’t believe the National Team selection process is as deliberate and/or evil as some do, but I am not naive enough to think the entire affair is politic-free.

Fans tend to give coaches and players too much power, crediting them for things they never could have made happen, much less thought of doing. For example, Auriemma and McGraw may not get along, but above all, Auriemma wants to win. If he thought Diggins and/or McBride could help him get it done, he would keep them on the team.

On the other hand, there were numerous UConn players on the 2012 Olympic team, and now of the 13 finalists for this year’s National Team, five of the 13 are current or former Huskies. Auriemma no doubt leans towards his athletes; that’s a normal instinct.

The only two UConn finalists I would question are Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. Stewart is a fine player, and was thought by many to be the college player of the year. Over the last two weeks, though, she has shown us who she really is: a college junior playing amongst professional players with years of experience. She should go back to UConn now and continue growing by leaps and bounds, as she has been doing.

It’s hard for me to put Bird’s name out there, as I respect her so much. But with the faster Whalen and Sims on board, is there really a need for #10?

Agents, and several former and current pro ballers, have told me that there are numerous female basketball players out there who are better than those who are currently playing in the WNBA. Decisions tend to be made, they say, for “star power” instead of quality of play. In other words, teams will pick the name player or the rising star over the one who has better skills.

Is that what’s happening with the National Team? The knee-jerk answer would be, not necessarily, as Diggins is one of the game’s brightest stars – not to mention a skilled player. But you never know.

As I’ve stated many times in this space, I learned years ago that you never know what’s going on with a team unless you’re on that team or coaching it. We don’t know what the USA coaches have seen in practice that lead them to make the cuts they’ve made, or what the USAB Committee thinks. Nor do we know all of the factors that go into making such decisions. Fans who act like/think they know (such as those who believe the Phoenix Mercury purposefully had a bad season in 2012 to get Griner) are leaping into arrogance and presumption.

Fans would be best to set aside their anger and support Team USA, whomever ends up on the final roster. Both fans and coaches need to keep eyes on the prize: it’s about winning the gold, period.