LAS VEGAS – Patrick McCaw has three NBA championship rings since the start of his career with Golden State and Toronto. Norris Cole was part of two winning teams in Miami.
And now both have the same plan: accept the call of the USA while waiting for the call of the NBA.
McCaw and Cole are on the USA Basketball team’s roster for the FIBA AmeriCup tournament, which begins Friday in Recife, Brazil. The tournament runs until Sept. 11, or about two weeks before NBA training camps begin, and both McCaw and Cole hope those games will lead to two things — a gold medal and a springboard back into the league.
“I think it’s more important for me to represent the U.S. right now,” McCaw said. “I want to go back to the NBA. I know it’s a process. And I know that one day, whenever, next week, next month, next year, when it’s meant to happen, it will happen. But right now, I’m just focusing on this USA, wearing these three letters, giving myself to the whole team and representing the United States of America.”
McCaw has appeared in just five NBA games over the past 2 1/2 years, his career largely derailed by a series of injuries that he says no longer bother him. Cole last played in an NBA game in April 2017 and has spent the past five seasons overseas, with Israel, China, Montenegro, Italy, France and Puerto Rico among some of the places where his passport was stamped.
“I still have the ability,” Cole said. “God still blessed me with the ability. I still have the fire, the hunger, and I still feel like I have things to prove, things I would like to achieve as a player. That feeling of winning a championship, the mission, the goal, the work to try to get to that point again, that’s what drives me as a competitor. And I want to have that feeling again.”
They are at different stages of their careers. McCaw, a 6-foot-7 wing, turns 27 on Oct. 25. Cole, a speedy 6-foot-2 point guard, turns 34 on Oct. 13.
But they have many similarities. Golden State is excited about McCaw as he made his way into the NBA there and was part of championship teams in 2017 and 2018 with the Warriors; McCaw was then part of Toronto’s title game the following season, when the Raptors beat Golden State. Cole also won championships in his first two years in the NBA, during LeBron James’ years in Miami.
“We’ve been winning,” Cole said. “Patrick has it working. He knows what winning looks like, and every time you get a win, it rubs off on you. He’s got that, he’s got a fun personality, and I think he definitely deserves another shot. I definitely think he deserves to be on an NBA roster.”
The AmeriCup is a championship for teams in the Americas region of FIBA. There were 12 countries that qualified; these 12 are divided into three groups of four. The top two teams in each group, as well as the top two third-placed teams, advance to the quarterfinals.
McCaw, Cole and Jody Meeks — also part of the Raptors’ 2019 squad — all bring NBA titles to this list. The other nine players selected are Zeelan Cheetham, Gary Clark Jr., Will Davis II, Anthony Lamb, Frank Mason III, Jeremy Pargo, Elijah Pemberton, Craig Sword and Stephen Zimmerman.
“It’s a good mix of guys,” said US AmeriCup coach Alex Jensen of the Utah Jazz. “You get a balance. And the important thing is, it sounds simple, but getting guys who like the opportunity to play. They like to play. So they come here and it means more to them. And that should help us unite.”
In training camp in Las Vegas, Cole won almost every sprint he entered and was clearly a defender on the court as a point guard. And McCaw’s talent was evident, even in the gym alongside so many other highly skilled players. His back and knee problems, he insists, are behind him, and that means he’s regaining his confidence, which will only help him return to the NBA.
“I was off the radar,” McCaw said. “I think it’s a big step because people will be able to watch these games and see where I am now. It will probably help. Injuries set me back. It wasn’t something else in the path, or life, or me that changed the type of person I am. These were injuries. And dealing with them was difficult. But I definitely think this trip to Brazil will open some doors again.”
Cole hopes for the same opportunity.
“Just a chance, that’s all I’m asking,” Cole said. – I have a lot that I can bring to the team. I want to keep showing that.”
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