After narrowly missing out on an NBA All-Rookie selection in 2019, Suns forward Mikal Bridges on Thursday was named to the USA Basketball Select Team, which will train with the national team this summer in the lead-up to the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Bridges joins 12 other young NBA stars in Las Vegas from August 5-9 in what should be a fantastic experience heading into his second season. These practices are one of the ways Devin Booker got on the map and began to earn real respect from his veteran peers in the league. A similar experience could come about for Bridges, whose work ethic and energy are praised by everyone he plays with or for.
The select team does not participate in World Cup competition, but acts as a proving ground for the next generation of national team competitors. It also gives young NBA stars the chance to play and train alongside the game’s best players.
Joining Bridges on the select team are Jarrett Allen, Marvin Bagley III, Jalen Brunson, John Collins, Pat Connaughton (who is really pushing the definition of “young” here at age 26), De’Aaron Fox, Joe Harris, Jonathan Isaac, Mitchell Robinson, Landry Shamet, Derrick White, and Trae Young.
It is a stacked group, but the real value to Bridges could come in the ability to work closely with the national team. This year, even that group is depleted, with superstars like Damian Lillard and Kevin Love among the latest to announce they will sit out the World Cup. However, it is still expected that great veteran players like Kemba Walker, Paul Millsap, Khris Middleton and Kyle Lowry will play.
We know friendships formed during national team play can be meaningful down the line for NBA players, and the way these guys play in such events goes a long way in reinforcing their reputation around the league.
The Suns are in dire need of some respect on their name, and Bridges didn’t get recognized for his tremendous rookie season with an All-Rookie selection, so this is a great way for him to improve and learn while also getting greater exposure.
Booker will not be in Las Vegas with Bridges
While Bright Side reported earlier this year that Booker would not be among the candidates to play for the United States at the World Cup in China this fall, it was confirmed by azcentral this week.
Via Suns beat reporter Duane Rankin:
“Team USA director Jerry Colangelo told The Republic on Wednesday Booker’s agent advised him two months ago Booker wanted to focus on getting healthy and ready for the 2019-20 season.
“So Booker was never invited, Colangelo said via text.”
As Booker looks to push for the playoffs for the first time in his career, the decision makes sense. Booker is always someone who has added to his game during the summer, and his sights are set on winning in Phoenix more than individual accolades at this point in his career. Rightly so.