Final Cuts of USA Basketball: A Great Lesson To Elite Players About Adversity

I’ve been dealing with players in coaching for about 18 years. It’s been such a learning experience of what makes them tick. As a coach the first trait that you need to be successful is the ability to have presence with the players in which you coach. Basketball and people are an ever changing enigma in which probably will never stop evolving.

Players at all level of basketball live in a bubble in which they are the center of. It is so hard for them to have a reality check of where they stand in the game as far as how others evaluate their abilities. For the most part they overrate their game in reference to their piers. It is what gives them their competitive edge and allows them to be the players that they are.

I’m a big believer in adversity. Adversity is such a great way to measure a persons drive, work ethic, and character. It is easy to be put in a perfect atmosphere where you are the best and always successful. As a scout I always like to watch a player when they face adversity. What I want to see is the next day or game how they approach their preparation. Do they back down? Do they quit? Do they come back tough and attack? Do they make changes so they don’t repeat the same mistakes?

Adversity is the key to being successful not only in basketball, but in life as well. For basketball players at all levels you need to understand where you stand in the game. Listen to people who tell you the truth even if it is something that you don’t want to hear. The earlier in the process that you know where you stand and what changes that you need to make to become a better player the more successful in the sport you will be.

NBA players are the biggest example of this. Every player that comes in the league wants to be the next Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, or Tim Duncan. From the minute they get in the league their mental level is that they will be an all-star some day. The problem is that oout of the 450 or so NBA players there are 10-12 elite players in the NBA.

For rookies coming into the league it is so important for them to learn quickly what their role is going to be. Most players that are drafted aren’t franchise players. In past drafts it used to be 1-5 franchise to high level all-star players will go in every draft. These days usually there is 1 if that drafted into the NBA that wil be a franchise level or high level all star player.

Since there are 42 new players that are coming through the draft and about 5 free agents signed form Europe to come in the NBA, many players become expendable quickly, so it is so important for players that come in drafted after the 15th pick to understand that they will only be asked to do 1-2 things and most of those players will be asked to do most of their work without the ball in their hand. For the players that mentally can’t handle that they aren’t the man like they were in college usually become journeyman or out of the NBA very quickly.

USA Basketball has been a very enjoyable situation for me for over 20 years. I love the fact that the best players in the world will be asked to compete to try out for the team with no guaranteed spot. To see so many great players get cut has always intrigued me.

For players at the elite level, I want to see how they handle adversity and not being considered the elite of the elite. I’ve attended some practices of USA Basketball while I am in Las Vegas this week with Nike and it has been an amazing experience. Watching the Select Team that features some of the NBA’s top young players scrimmaging against each other, none of which are good enough to make the Senior Team Yet.

Yesterday I watched practice thinking to myself how players such as DeMarcus Cousins will take being cut by USA Basketball. To me he was clearly out of shape and read some comments by officials and scouts that he wasn’t ready. How does he take that? Does he roll his eyes and say that they don’t know what they are talking about and keep preparing the same way? Only time will tell.

Most of the top half of the NBA players were in this camp. Many of them have never been cut in their life. I’m very interested how they take that as no one ever said that they weren’t good enough. They never sat on the bench at any level and were always the best. When receiving the news about not being good enough to compete with the elite of the elite how they handle this will impact the rest of their career.

It’s the same thing that happens with an average player, but now its is at a whole new level. The same questions still remain in my head of how they will handle it. Will they take the rest of the off season to work on the skills in which they need to improve on or will they continue to be the same. In basketball and in life nothing ever stays the same. You either get better or you get worse.

In the NBA 42 new players come into the league every year. That means 42 spots are taken and 42 people are looking for work. General Managers of teams look at that list of 42 and ask themselves who out of that list is better than the players that I have. If there are better players they will cut the bottom players and replace them. There is constant turnover in the NBA where the fringe guys need to stay relevant. They can’t be happy with being the same, as there are people always looking to knock them off their spot.

Humble pie is always a good thing and adversity is a great thing for someone’s development. People who never face it and coast through life have a tough to impossible time dealing with it when it hits. I think for the players who were cut by USA Basketball should take the advise of the staff and continue to get better. If they don’t maybe 4 years form now when its time to try out again they won’t have to worry about finishing the race as they may not get invited to it.

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