New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, has joined the list of top-flight talents who have withdrawn from next month’s USA Basketball training camp in preparation for this summer’s FIBA World Cup.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Williamson is instead focused on the coming NBA season, when the Pelicans will incorporate a cast of rookies, trade acquisitions and free-agent signings onto the roster, including Jaxon Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors.
In recent weeks, All-Stars Anthony Davis, James Harden and Bradley Beal, among others, have withdrawn from the men’s national team competition this summer. The commitment spans a six-week stretch from the start of training camp in Las Vegas on Aug. 5 through the World Cup gold-medal game in China scheduled for Sept. 15, leaving little time before the start of NBA training camp in late September.
C.J. McCollum, Eric Gordon and Tobias Harris have also withdrawn from consideration. According to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon, Damian Lillard and Kevin Love could join them, leaving USA Basketball with less than a full 12-man roster.
Williamson was among 10 up-and-coming players named to the Select Team, which is slated to join the remaining members of the national team for the training camp in Vegas from Aug. 5-9. Team USA’s 12-man roster for the World Cup will be selected from the combined pool of players, and there was some thoughts that Williamson might replace one of the withdrawn established stars in China.
Williamson played all of nine minutes at summer league earlier this month before a bruised left knee cost him the remainder of his scheduled playing time in Vegas. He also suffered a right knee injury scare with Duke this past season, when a mild sprain left him sidelined for five games after the infamous exploding shoe incident.
All-Stars Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton are among those who remain committed to coach Gregg Popovich for the World Cup, according to The New York Times’ Marc Stein. The list of potential national team replacements for recently withdrawn stars includes Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, D’Angelo Russell, Mike Conley, Josh Richardson, Thaddeus Young and Julius Randle, according to Vardon.
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