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Mikal Bridges to play for Team USA at 2023 FIBA World Cup

Bridges, coming off a breakout season in Brooklyn, will star in the FIBA World Cup starting in late August

NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This season, Mikal Bridges became an instant fan-favorite in the borough with his trade from the Phoenix Suns to the Brooklyn Nets. After never having averaged 15 points a game in his first four full seasons in the desert, Bridges put up 26.1 PPG on 48/38/89 shooting splits to wrap up his half-season in Brooklyn.

The bad news? Fans only got to see his effortless jumper and trademark 3-point celebration for 27 regular season games before a first-round sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. The good news? Fans won’t have to wait for half-a-year before seeing ‘Brooklyn Bridges’ play again.

That’s because Mikal Bridges has committed to play for Team USA Basketball this summer, as they compete in the 2023 FIBA World Cup in the Asian nations of Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Scoop guru Shams Charania reported the news in a tweet late Sunday afternoon:

Bridges joins a roster featuring Tyrese Haliburton, Anthony Edwards, Austin Reaves, and Bobby Portis. Marc Stein is reporting that Jalen Brunson, Bridges’ teammate at Villanova, will also be on the roster.

On Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski reported two other NBA players, both forwards, have committed to Team USA...

Woj later added:

The USA roster is still in flux and expected to be completed sometime later in June, sources said. The World Cup roster will be different than the Olympic team for Paris 2024, but there could be some continuity between the two teams.

Training camp for the red, white and blue starts on August 1 in Colorado Springs. Their first exhibition game is scheduled for August 7 against Puerto Rico in Las Vegas. After their exhibition game vs Puerto Rico in Las Vegas, USA will play so-called friendly games in Spain and Abu Dhabi before their World Cup opener on August 26 against New Zealand in Manila. Games will continue through the championship round on the weekend of September 9-10 in Manila. NBA camps open three weeks later.

Bridges and his fellow Americans, lead by Head Coach Steve Kerr, are looking to atone for Team USA’s worst-ever seventh-place finish in 2019 - the 18th edition of the tournament. The then-defending champions were dispatched by Rudy Gobert’s French squad (*cough* no defensive three seconds *cough*) in a quarterfinal matchup, and subsequently fell to Serbia, led by Bogdan Bogdanovic, in a consolation match. For context, here’s the boxscore from that match:

You’ll notice Joe Harris’ name (and hopefully not his team-worst +/-) in that box score, (obviously) the most recent Net to play for Team USA in the World Cup. And while Bridges may be the only Net to take the floor for Team USA this year, he won’t be the only member of the black-and-white heading to Japan/Indonesia/the Philippines for the games.

Yuta Watanabe is expected to be a centerpiece of Japan’s starting five. He’s said that as long as his free agency is settled, he welcomes playing in the Cup. Patty Mills, a certified international basketball legend already, will be representing his Australian Boomers. In fact, the two Nets teammates were in Hawaii last week working out in preparation for the Cup...

Then, there’s Mills’ countryman, Ben Simmons. Whether he plays for Australia remains uncertain, but with his back rehab continuing, that seems to be in the realm of possibility. He has said that if healthy, he intends to play and the Boomers head coach said he is holding a roster spot for him. Here’s our latest update on that whole situation.

Australia opens on August 25 vs. Finland while Japan faces Germany the same night in Okinawa, Japan.

The key takeaway from Sunday's news-dump just before Game Two of the NBA Finals: Mikal Bridges will be suiting up for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup this summer. And who knows? Other than another opportunity to improve his game, Bridges’ participation in Southeast Asia could really pay off down the line.