Cautious U.S. coach Popovich wary of World Cup quality
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[June 11, 2019]
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Even though
Gregg Popovich has a roster packed with NBA All-Stars, the United
States coach is still a little concerned about the quality of
opposition his team will face at the basketball World Cup in August.
USA Basketball, winners of the last two World Cups, named an
expanded 20-man roster on Monday for a four-day training camp in Las
Vegas from Aug. 4-8 which included 2019 All-Stars Anthony Davis,
Kyle Lowry and James Harden.
The San Antonio Spurs head coach will then cull that to the 12
needed for warm-up games against Spain in Los Angeles on Aug. 16,
Australia in Melbourne on Aug. 22 and 24 and Canada in Sydney on
"This will be a process," Popovich told reporters on a conference
call on Tuesday.
"Four days is not enough to do much of anything in life. What's
available and what's necessary are two different things and we need
to look at the process to be a team that plays like a team when we
get to China.
"Before that, each minute will be important to us. We are fully
aware that we don't have a lot of time."
The quality of the opposing teams at the World Cup, many of which
will feature NBA players, was a concern for Popovich.
The matches against Australia's Boomers at Melbourne's Docklands
stadium, would therefore provide the U.S. with the final challenge
he felt was necessary heading into the Aug. 31-Sept. 15 tournament
"It's obviously a talented group," Popovich said of the Boomers, who
have included NBA players such as Philadelphia's Ben Simmons and the
Spurs' Paddy Mills in their squad.
"The group has wonderful basketball IQ. They're basketball players.
They're not one-on-one players. They are people who understand how
to play. They enjoy playing with each other.
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Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich during the first half against the
Denver Nuggets in game seven of the first round of the 2019 NBA
Playoffs at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY
"And every country the USA plays against, they want to beat them
(the U.S.) badly. I expect the Australians to be a major factor in
the World Cup."
The World Cup title is not the only thing up for grabs in China,
with direct qualifying spots for next year's Tokyo Olympics also on
Apart from the 20 players named in the initial squad, USA Basketball
have approached others like the Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron
James to be available for Tokyo next year.
James, one of the game's all-time greats, has not ruled himself out
of contention for Popovich's squad for his fourth Games after he won
bronze in Athens in 2004 and golds at Beijing in 2008 and London in
It was that desire of some of the biggest names in the sport to make
themselves available for their national sides that pleased the U.S.
team's managing director Jerry Colangelo the most.
"It speaks volumes," Colangelo said. "It says that these players
have a passion for the game and for representing their countries.
That is all very positive stuff.
"It just creates a situation where it creates much better
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Nick
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