With the playoffs in full swing and topics like the draft lottery and free agency pressing topics for Lakers’ fans, it’s easy to forget that this summer the Olympics will take place. And, with that, we will have another Team USA roster to discuss, debate, and watch take on the rest of the world in the global games. The top team which heads to Rio, however, will not be the only “Team USA” squad this summer. No, there will also be a “Select” team which is made up of young players who will scrimmage against the main group and get their feet wet with the National program.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, two young Lakers will be invited to play for the select team when they convene this summer.
Sources: Lakers' D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle invited to play for USA Select Team this summer. They'll compete against Olympic team.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) May 13, 2016
This is a nice little honor for these two guys; a recognition of their status as two up and coming players in the league. It’s not a guarantee for future participation on the main team — the Olympic and World Championships rosters will almost always be made up of the guys who are not just All-Stars, but competing for the All-NBA Teams — but as 1st and 2nd year players it’s a step in the right direction and, as noted, a recognition as young players on the rise.
For reference, some of the players who were on the 2014 Select team include Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Marcus Smart, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, and Dion Waiters. Green, of course, has turned into a star player and has a strong chance of being named to the Olympic team this summer. The rest of those players are key contributors for their teams, but none have truly broken out in a major way as of yet. The Lakers surely hope Russell and Randle follow Green’s path.
As an aside, some are likely wondering why Jordan Clarkson was not invited with his teammates. Well, if you’ll recall, Clarkson has made efforts to play for the Philippine National team down the road. With that, he would not be eligible to play for Team USA in any capacity (the same would be true of Karl Anthony-Towns who has already suited up for the Dominican Republic’s National Team).
Back to Russell and Randle, I’ll be interested in seeing how they do in this environment. The National Team environment is heavy on competition where the best of the best go at it and really learn from each other. Both young Lakers could use that type of atmosphere to continue to help grow their games heading into next season.