Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving Show Young Generation’s Renewed Patriotism in Battle for Team USA Roster Spots

Rajon Rondo, Russell WestbrookShawn Kemp grabbing his crotch, this is not.

With LeBron James saying he will no longer compete for Team USA and Kobe Bryant inching closer to his eventual retirement, there have been fears that the next American team to take the basketball court for international competition could be thin on talent. Even though big stars like Kevin Durant have pledged to play in the 2014 FIBA World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the days of the “Dream Team” could be done.

Those concerns appear to be unfounded. If anything, the competition for roster spots on Team USA could become more intense than ever, with the backcourt in particular crowded with young stars eager to represent their country.

Reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard could be the odd man out, in fact, after studs Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry claim guard spots for coach Mike Krzyzewski. All four players are point guards, so Krzyzewski has had them play off the ball at times in an effort to find a way to get all of them on the team — and on the court.

In contrast to a decade ago, when nearly every established a rising star begged off unpaid jaunts through foreign lands, the new generation seems to be taking renewed pride in these international games. By the time they head to Rio in 2016, the Olympic practices could be just as cutthroat and competitive as those of the original Dream Team in 1992. That is good for Team USA, but it could be bad for somebody like Lillard, a rising star on the fringe who just wants to do his country proud.

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