Look, I’m not some maniac waving the american flag, starting chants of “USA! USA!” and inexplicably toting around ad 2×4 for patriotic clubberings. But my blood starts pumping red, white, and blue whenever Team USA basketball is afoot. Oddly, I feel like I’m in the minority.
Now I know the team for this year’s FIBA World Cup isn’t as sexy as past years. Okay, maybe that’s an understatement. Honestly, if you’re going to try to get this particular roster to look sexy, you might get stuck in an infinite loop of “Hair up, glasses off.”
Regardless of that, Team USA basketball matters more and is more enjoyable than any other off season endeavor players undertake, including NBA Summer League. Call it spice if you must but that’s just the right amount of seasoned if you ask me. You’re playing against better competition, you’re playing under better head coaches, you’re building relationships with other NBA players (that definitely isn’t any sort of tampering violation), and taking part in a long legacy of players whose off season competition has actually translated into NBA success.
And this summer one of Team USA’s best success stories is going to be the Bucks’ very own Khris Middleton. Money Middleton isn’t the captain of the squad nor is he the one grabbing any of the headlines. And there’s more than enough chatter about how the four (FOUR!) Celtics that stand to make the squad are using this time to gel and rediscover the spark that Hurricane Kyrie extinguished last season. His under-the-radar flight isn’t surprising because just like this team, Middleton isn’t the sexiest. But he just might be the best.
In the first half of USA’s exhibition game with Spain, Middleton casually went four-of-four with two assists. He’d finish as the team’s second leading scorer with 12 points on a 71.4% from the field, 50% from three, and a +7 plus/minus. The plays didn’t make the highlight reel like the dunks from Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell but Middleton scored essentially the same amount with fewer minutes and greater efficiency.
Middleton is going to be a steady hand on the undermanned USA ship. By all accounts, Kemba Walker is the leader of the team but Middleton will likely be depended upon as the number two scorer and a veteran example for young wings like Tatum and Jalen Brown. This team will require Middleton to be a vocal, present leader even more than Milwaukee does. He’ll be called upon to score on at will against some of the best team defenses in the world. And he’s going to bring all of that experience back to the Bucks.
So as I was saying: “AMERICA **** YEAH!”