Cade Cunningham says load management is why he’s not on Team USA for FIBA World Cup

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read

Two of the least favorite words for any basketball fan are keeping Cade Cunningham from playing for Team USA at the upcoming 2023 FIBA World Cup: load management.

“It was the deciding factor,” Cunningham told The Athletic after his last Team USA practice this summer.

The young Detroit Pistons star is coming back from a shin injury suffered in November that required surgery and ended his 2022-23 NBA season. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft said he is not quite totally recovered and it would not be fair to join Team USA at less than full strength.

“They go over and there’s so much traveling, there’s so much, you know, like real schedule, like team practice and everything,” Cunningham said. “I wanted to dedicate my summer to really make sure that as an individual, I was ready for the season coming up physically and mentally. I think that was really the deciding factor. I didn’t want to join the Team USA World Cup team and still have to go to rehab and not fully be a part of everything that was going on.


“I know everybody that’s on the team is ready to go 100 percent. That’s why I wanted to be on the select team, to be a part of it but also you know keep my summer and keep my routine going.”

It’s an unfortunate outcome for both Cunningham and fans of Team USA as the 21-year-old performed well in recent scrimmages.

Three Team USA players — Brandon Ingram, Cam Johnson and Tyrese Haliburton — suffered injuries during the 2022-23 NBA season that caused them to miss significant time but will participate in the tournament, which will be held from Aug. 25 through Sept. 10.

Team USA coach Steve Kerr has dealt with the concept of load management as head coach of the Golden State Warriors but said it won’t apply during the World Cup.

“Nope…there’s no load management in FIBA,” Kerr said.

Team USA is atop the FIBA power rankings heading into the competition and the betting favorite to win the tournament, despite some observers harshly criticizing the makeup of the roster. The Americans open play on Aug. 26 against New Zealand and also play Greece and Jordan in Group C.

Many of the other teams in the tournament include NBA talent as well, including Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who had a very interesting reaction to making his first 3-pointer for France in an exhibition game.

Cunningham played just 12 games last season before eventually having surgery in December. He has averaged 17.8 points per game in the 76 NBA contests he has been able to play and is expected to be ready for Pistons training camp in October.

Detroit has won 80 games total over the past four seasons, so it surely doesn’t want to lose Cunningham again before starting the 2023-24 NBA campaign, when it almost certainly will have its own load management plan for their recovering star.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.