Walker says new-look U.S. men’s hoops team is a-OK by him

Celtics point guard Kemba Walker says he is a proud member of the U.S. men's basketball team.

A lot of All-Star veterans decided against playing for the U.S. men’s basketball team, but Kemba Walker is glad he stayed.

“I love basketball. I love to play,” Walker said. “And what better opportunity to do that than to play for your country?”

The U.S. is currently holding tryouts on the campus of UNLV. Those who make it will represent the country in the FIBA World Cup in China later this month.

Walker is one of the original invitees who stuck around. Names such as Anthony Davis, James Harden, Damian Lillard are among the many who pulled out — some at the last minute.

That has left the likes of Walker, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell and coach Gregg Popovich to carry the load.

But Walker said the holdovers are happy with the current arrangement.

“This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of us. I think a lot of us are happy those guys pulled out,” he said. “This is our chance, this is our chance to get on the big stage and showcase our talents. It’s a chance for us to do something new, to be a new-look team.”

Walker has had a big summer, signing with the Boston Celtics after eight years with the Charlotte Hornets. He is suddenly leading a contender.

For now, he is hoping to lead a champion.

“This is USA Basketball, this is a huge achievement,” Walker said. “It’s a huge honor to be a part of this.”

Along with Walker and the other aforementioned, the U.S. camp roster consists of Marcus Smart, De’Aaron Fox, Jaylen Brown, Harrison Barnes, Thaddeus Young and Kyle Kuzma at the guard and forward positions. Mason Plumlee, Bam Adebayo, Brook Lopez, Myles Turner and P.J. Tucker are others in the frontcourt.

“All I care about is who’s here,” said Popovich said. “I’ve got a fine group of guys. We’re going to try to get them to form the best possible team we can.”

The U.S. officially opens World Cup play Sunday, Sept. 1 vs. the Czech Republic in Shanghai. The gold medal game is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 15, just a couple weeks before the start of training camp.

Walker and his teammates will take part in the Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage Friday at 10 p.m. EST. The U.S. will then take part in several exhibition games — Aug. 16 vs. Spain, Aug. 22 and 24 vs. Australia and Aug. 26 vs. Canada.

“Obviously, we play with more of a chip [on our shoulders],” Mitchell said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I think a lot of countries think they see an opening. So we have to go out there and compete and get ready. We’re going to get every team’s best shot.”