Isaiah Thomas on playing in NBA: ‘The world knows I got what it takes’

NBA free agent Isaiah Thomas led the way for Team USA with 19 points on Friday night as they defeated the Bahamas 93-77 in FIBA AmeriCup in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The game was the USA’s fifth in FIBA AmeriCup Qualifying play, which the USA will close out against Mexico tomorrow, Feb. 20, at 5 p.m. EST (live on ESPN+).

The 32-year-old Thomas, who played last season with the Wizards, is looking to use these games with Team USA to show teams in the NBA that he can still get it done. After the game, Thomas, who also had six turnovers, discussed his performance.

“I think I played okay. I mean, I’m my biggest critic,” Thomas said. “I felt like I could have done so much more. But you know, I was in foul trouble a little bit. The turnovers are way too high, so I got to limit those. But I’m also getting used to that new ball. I’ve been playing with one ball for the last 10 years. So, it’s a little different, but I just have to adjust, continue to stay aggressive, continue to make plays, and, like I said, most importantly, it’s about getting the win.”

Health has been an issue for Thomas over the years. Thomas dealt with a hip issue, but according to the two-time All-Star, he’s healthy and can help an NBA team.

“The world knows I got what it takes,” Thomas said. “So, it’s just about showing that I’m healthy. My skill didn’t go anywhere. It was just about getting 100% healthy, which I am right now. So, this is definitely a showcase for me, not just for myself, but for, you know, everybody on this team to showcase that, you know, they can play and be able to get jobs around the world. So, you know, individually. Yes, I’m showing that, you know, I’m 100% healthy. I’m moving and I’m myself.”

It was good to see Thomas back on the court, and hopefully, he can get another shot in the league.

Teams will continue to play games in the FIBA AmeriCup Qualifying final window through Feb. 21, after which the top three teams from each of the four groups will earn a berth into the FIBA AmeriCup 2022. With five wins, the USA is assured of its berth into the FIBA AmeriCup 2022, which will serve to qualify teams from the Americas zone for the 2024 Olympic Games.

Photo: FIBA AmeriCup

44 finalists announced for 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team

Headed by three-time Olympic medalist LeBron James  (Los Angeles Lakers), and including nine members of the gold medalist 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, seven gold medalists from the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team and all 12 members of the USA’s 2019 FIBA World Cup Team, 44 athletes were announced by USA Basketball today as finalists for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team. The player selections were approved by the USA Basketball Board of Directors. The official 12-member 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team roster will be announced later this year.

Featuring 29 players who have played for the USA in Olympic and/or FIBA World Cup competitions and who together have collected 31 Olympic or FIBA Basketball World Cup gold medals and four bronze medals, the 44 finalists for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team include:

Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat); LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs); Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards); Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns); Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers); Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics);  Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat); Mike Conley (Utah Jazz); Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers); DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs); Andre Drummond (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets); Paul George (L.A. Clippers); Draymond Green(Golden State Warriors); James Harden (Houston Rockets); Montrezl Harrell (L.A. Clippers); Joe Harris  (Brooklyn Nets); Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers); Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics); Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers); Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans); Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets); LeBron James(Los Angeles Lakers); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Kawhi Leonard (L.A. Clippers); Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Kevin Love  (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); JaVale McGee (Los Angeles Lakers); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers); Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets); Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors); Myles Turner  (Indiana Pacers); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); Russell Westbrook( Houston Rockets); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

The USA National Team coaching staff is led by San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, and serving as USA assistant coaches are Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Atlanta Hawks head coach  Lloyd Pierce and Villanova University head coach Jay Wright.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said Jerry Colangelo, who has served as the managing director of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team since 2005.

“The commitment, desire and excitement of all of our athletes to represent their country is genuine and remarkable. All of the finalists are exceptionally gifted athletes who offer us amazing versatility and depth, and the group of finalists features a range of players from those who are very experienced and accomplished in international basketball to players who will be future international stars.

“Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Five-time NBA champion and longtime San Antonio Spurs head coach Popovich was announced on Oct. 23, 2015, head coach of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team for the 2017-20 quadrennium.  Now in his 24th season as the Spurs head coach, Popovich also boasts of full resume of international coaching experience.

“I’m looking forward to coaching the U.S. Olympic Team, and I’m excited about the potential and possibilities this team has,” said USA mentor Popovich.  “Anyone who follows international basketball knows there are many really good players from all around the world, and therefore there are many excellent national teams. International basketball has improved so much from the days of the Dream Team. The Olympics in 2020 will be a true competition, and there are many teams that will have a legitimate shot at capturing gold.”  

James is a three-time Olympic medalist (2004 bronze and 2008 and 2012 gold) who is attempting to make a historic fourth U.S. Olympic men’s team. A fourth Olympic appearances would tie James with Carmelo Anthony  for the most by any U.S. male basketball player. Durant (2012 and 2016) and Paul (2008 and 2012) are seeking to become three-time Olympians and join Anthony, James and David Robinson as the USA’s only three-time U.S. Olympic male basketball players.

Nine players from the gold medal winning 2016 U.S. Olympic team that went 8-0 in Rio remain in contention for the 2020 U.S. Olympic squad, including Barnes, Butler, DeRozan, Durant, George, Green, Irving, Lowry and Thompson. Davis, Durant, Harden, James, Love, Paul and Westbrook were members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team that compiled an unblemished record of 8-0 and captured gold in London, while Howard, James and Paul were gold medalists with the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team. Additionally, James earned a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

All 12 members of the USA’s 2019 World Cup Team are finalists and include Barnes, Brown, Joe Harris, Lopez, Middleton, Mitchell, Plumlee, Smart, Tatum, Turner, Walker and White. Eight members of the 2014 USA World Cup Team that finished 9-0 and captured gold in Spain are among the finalists including, including Curry, Davis, DeRozan, Drummond, Harden, World Cup MVP Irving, Plumlee and Thompson. Four finalists were members of the 2010 USA World Championship squad that went 9-0 and captured gold in Istanbul, Turkey: Curry, World Cup MVP Durant, Love and Westbrook; and Howard, James and Paul earned a bronze medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan.

The finalists represent 21 different NBA teams, with the Boston Celtics (Brown, Hayward, Smart, Tatum and Walker) and the Los Angeles Lakers (Davis, Howard, James, Kuzma and McGee) leading the way with five players each. The Brooklyn Nets (Durant, Joe Harris and Irving), Golden State Warriors (Curry, Green and Thompson), Indiana Pacers (Brogdon, Oladipo and Turner), L.A. Clippers (George, Harrell and Leonard) and the San Antonio Spurs (Aldridge, DeRozan and White) each feature three players. The Cleveland Cavaliers (Drummond and Love), Houston Rockets (Harden and Westbrook), Miami Heat (Adebayo and Butler), Milwaukee Bucks (Lopez and Middleton) and Utah Jazz (Conley and Mitchell) each have two players among the 44 finalists; and the Denver Nuggets (Plumlee), New Orleans Pelicans (Ingram), Oklahoma City Thunder (Paul), Philadelphia 76ers (Tobias Harris), Phoenix Suns (Booker), Portland Trail Blazers (Lillard), Sacramento Kings (Barnes), Toronto Raptors (Lowry) and the Washington Wizards (Beal) each are represented by one player.

The USA National Team’s complete training schedule for 2020 will be announced at a later date.

Popovich on Team USA: ‘I wish I could have gotten them closer, but it didn’t happen’

In its final 2019 FIBA World Cup game, the USA men (6-2) had five players score in double-figures and recorded 29 assists in an 87-74 win over Poland (4-4) on Saturday afternoon at Wukesong Sport Arena in Beijing, China.

The USA finished the tournament in seventh place and now is 129-29 all time in FIBA World Cup action. As one of the top two finishing teams from the FIBA Americas zone, the USA also qualified for the 2020 Olympics.

“There are wonderful teams and wonderful coaches all over the world, so there’s no surprise in any of that,” said Gregg Popovich (USA and San Antonio Spurs head coach). “You go compete, and you know the best teams win. I was thrilled with the group of guys that we were able to coach. They made the sacrifice. They worked hard. They let us coach them, and we got them to a certain point in a short period of time. I wish I could have gotten them closer, but it didn’t happen.”

Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz) was the USA top scorer with 16 points, including 4-of-4 from 3-point, and a USA men’s World Cup record-tying 10 assists.

“You know, obviously, we didn’t get the result that we had wanted, but to be able to go to war with a bunch of guys who really sacrificed not only their time, their bodies, there’s not a lot more you can ask for,” Mitchell said. “I’ve never been a part of USA Basketball, and this was an incredible experience. Obviously, with the game today we showed a lot of character, because even after losing some teams can go the other way and say whatever, and that wasn’t the case with these guys. I’m really happy and blessed to have this opportunity.”

Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets) finished with 14 points; Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks) added 13 points and six assists; Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs) contributed 12 points and seven assists; and Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings) tallied 10 points.

“It was a good win here today,” White said. “We wanted to go out winning. I mean, obviously, we fell short of our goal, but overall I think it was special to play with these guys in the locker room, and we had a great group of guys. I think we all learned a lot from it.”

The USA got off to a strong start and shot 57.9% from the field in the first quarter, including 10 assists on 11 field goals, while its defense held Poland to 0-of-7 from 3-point.

With the USA leading 18-14, the Americans closed on a 10-0 run and went ahead 28-14 after the first 10 minutes.

Seven scorers contributed for the USA in the second period, which increased its advantage by three points and headed into the halftime locker room with a 47-30 lead.

The third quarter was Poland’s strongest effort, and they outscored the USA 25-16 in the period, including a 14-2 stretch that cut the lead to seven points, 54-47, at 4:07. The USA pushed its cushion back to 63-49 at 1:17, but Poland sank two 3-pointers and made it to 63-55 with 10 minutes to play.

Twice early in the fourth quarter, Poland again narrowed the gap to seven points, but each time the USA responded, outscoring Poland 24-19 in the fourth period to earn the 87-74 win.

“We came out here, and we checked a couple boxes, but we didn’t get everything accomplished,” said Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers), who collected eight rebounds to go with his seven points and four blocked shots. “We qualified this team for the Olympics coming up, but we didn’t get that gold medal – something that is going to stick with us for a very long, shoot, the rest of our lives. And, you know, it hurts a little bit, but we came out here, and I think we did the best we could, given the circumstances.”

For the game, the USA shot 50.8% (31-61 FGs) from the field and 48.0% from 3-point (12-25 3pt FGs), and it held Poland to 39.7% shooting (29-73 FGs) and just 25.9% from 3-point (7-27 3pt FGs).

Photo/courtesy: USA Basketball

Pop on Team USA’s loss to France: ‘Any loss hurts, and this situation hurts more’

Physical play and a critical scoring drought in the final minutes spelled the end of a major streak for the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Team.

The top-ranked USA lost to third-ranked France 89-79 Thursday in the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals at Dongguan, China, snapping a 58-game winning streak in international competition using NBA players. It is the first loss in 25 World Cup games for the U.S. since falling to Greece 101-95 in the 2006 semifinals. The loss also means the U.S., which locked up a spot in next year’s Olympic Games in its previous game, will not medal at the World Cup for the first time since 2002.

“Any loss hurts, and this situation hurts more, but life goes on,” USA coach Gregg Popovich said. “This is very important. We would have loved to have won, just like any other team, we would have loved to win games in this tournament. But, we all have family and lives and life moving on.”

The U.S. (5-1), which was bidding to become the first nation to win three straight World Cups, won’t have any time to lick its wounds. The Americans will face a formidable Serbia (4-2), ranked fourth in the world, on Thursday in Dongguan (7 a.m. EDT) and will finish no better than fifth place. Meanwhile, France – which had been 0-9 against the U.S. in major international play – will face Argentina (6-0) in Friday’s semifinals in Beijing.

Donovan Mitchell was the go-to guy for the U.S., scoring 29 points, but none in the fourth quarter. Marcus Smart had 11 points and Kemba Walker 10. Evan Fournier, who plays for the Orlando Magic, had 22 points for France, which closed the game on a 22-5 run. Rudy Gobert – Mitchell’s teammate with the Utah Jazz and two-time reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year – added 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for France, while Nando De Colo had 18 points.

“I’m looking at the times there were guys open that I missed,” Mitchell said. “There were possessions on defense where I threw the ball in the backcourt when we were down six. I can care less about the 29 (points). To me what sticks out is the things I did wrong. That’s what’s on everybody’s mind. Anybody could have had a good game. Whether is 29, nine or zero, we lost.”

Added Smart: “We learned a lot. For a lot of us it was our first time (in a FIBA tournament) so we came out and gave it everything. I’m proud of every last one of my teammates. We got another game tomorrow so it’s not over with. We have to come out and compete.”

The U.S. trailed 45-39 at halftime. Fournier and Gobert each had 13 points in the half, with Fournier proving to be the more difficult matchup. Mitchell had 15 points for the U.S. France outscored the U.S. 12-6 at the free-throw line and held a 21-12 advantage on the boards.

In the third quarter, France held a 10-point lead twice, but Mitchell single-handedly kept the U.S. in the game by scoring 14 points. Smart hit three free throws to put the Americans up 63-62 with 1:40 left in the third quarter, their first lead since 29-27 with 6:03 left in the second. The U.S. took a 66-63 lead into the fourth quarter.

Walker, the Americans’ leading scorer at 14.6 points per game but who battled foul trouble Thursday, made his first field goal with 8:11 left in the game, his stepback jumper giving the U.S. a 72-65 lead. It was just his third shot of the game.

The U.S. maintained its advantage at 74-67 on a Khris Middleton layup with 7:39 remaining. But France chipped away and finally tied the game 76-76 on Frank Ntilikina’s 3-pointer with 4:35 left. Fournier added a go-ahead driving layup, Gobert had an emphatic slam and Ntilikina had a long jumper that made it 82-76 with 2:05 left. The U.S. was unable to sustain any offense the rest of the game.

“We knew it was going to be a (tough) game,” said U.S. forward Jaylen Brown, who had nine points and four rebounds. “We just didn’t do what needed to be done. At the end of the day, we came up short. France was better than us tonight unfortunately.”

Gobert was a key factor in the game as he controlled the paint. He drew two early fouls on Myles Turner, negating much of the U.S. inside game. Still, the U.S. had opportunities it did not capitalize on.

“It really wasn’t so much their size as it was our execution,” Smart said. “We were really stagnant on the offensive end and with that being said, they hurt us on the defensive end. They moved us and we didn’t do it on the other end. It bit us on the butt.”

After starting 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, the Americans made just 4 of 11 tries, including several key misses that thwarted a rally.

“That hurt. That hurt bad man, just to miss those free throws,” Walker said. “I really wanted to make those for my teammates. But sometimes that’s just the way the ball goes. Very, very unfortunate. But now it’s nothing I can control.”

Team USA defeats Canada; FIBA World Cup begins on Saturday

Two days after suffering its first loss since 2006, the USA Men’s National Team (3-1) bounced back with an 84-68 win over Canada in the final exhibition game before the FIBA World Cup opens in China on Aug. 31.

Playing at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia, where 19 years earlier the USA men claimed Olympic gold, the United States started Kemba Walker,  Myles Turner, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Harrison Barnes for Monday’s final tune-up.

They came out firing, while holding Canada scoreless for the first 2:52 of the game and to just 20.0% shooting from the field in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the USA made 41.2% percent of their shots from the field to help build a 20-9 lead in the first 10 minutes. The USA also was helped by a 18-9 first quarter rebounding advantage, including three-straight offensive boards on the first possession of the game.

In the second quarter, Canada cut the USA lead to just five points, 35-30 with 2:02 on the clock, but the USA closed with an 11-1 run to lead 46-31 at halftime.

Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks) and Mitchell teamed up to send the USA into the halftime locker room with some extra energy after Smart collected a steal that ended with Mitchell slamming home an alley-oop from Middleton to just beat the halftime buzzer.

At the midway point, the USA’s Brown had 13 points, Mitchell had 12, and Turner had grabbed nine boards.

The USA outscored Canada 18-16 in the third quarter, while Canada had the offensive edge in the fourth quarter, 21-20, to bring the game to its 84-68 final.

“We are learning a lot,” said USA mentor Gregg Popovich. “This group has never been together before and had a lot to learn. We still have a lot to learn, but game by game, practice by practice trying to figure it out. And, tonight was another good lesson to realize what the mindset has to be going into these games – how physical they are, how you have to sustain the energy for forty minutes.

“It’s coming along, but as I said, there is a lot of improvement we can make, and that’s a good thing. I think we got good potential there to continue to execute better than we are now. So, we competed. That wasn’t a problem, but still execution takes time and guys have to get used to each other. You have to practice, which is kind of difficult as you move forward in this competition. So, the games in a way are practices also, in the sense that you have to try to be as good at what you are trying to get accomplished as possible.”

Jaylen Brown led the team in scoring with 19 points off the bench on 8-of-11 shooting from the field after heating up in the second half. Mitchell, who was captain for the game, and Walker each contributed 12 points and Turner chipped in 10 points and a team-leading 15 rebounds.

“We’ve got a lot of room for growth and it’s going to be good when it comes all together but we have to keep working,” Brown said in a post-game interview posted to Twitter. “The sky’s the limit, we just have to be able to lock in and believe in each other.”

The U.S. defeated Spain 90-81 on Aug. 16, and played a pair of games against Australia in Melbourne in the past week, beating them 102-86 and then having a 78-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, 98-94.

After a rest day on Aug. 27 and practice on Aug. 28, the USA will depart Sydney for Shanghai, China, where it will first play Czech Republic at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Sept. 1, followed by Turkey at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 3 and Japan at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Sept. 5.

Following three preliminary round games for each team, the top two teams from each preliminary round group advance to second round groups and will play two more games. The top two teams from each of the four second round groups earn a berth into the quarterfinals on Sept. 10 or 11.

“There is a lot of room to improve I think for this team, especially offensively,” said Brown. “Defensively, we came out with the right mindset, and that’s half the battle, more than half the battle, having the right mindset. Now, we got to execute. Now, we got to take care of the ball. We got to rebound and play unselfishly, and we’ll be pretty good.

The final 12-man roster for the tournament includes Monday’s starting five plus Brown, Joe Harris, Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton, Mason Plumlee, Marcus Smart and Derrick White . The U.S. has won the last two World Cups and five overall. If Team USA finishes the tournament as one of the top two teams from the Americas, it will qualify directly to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Photo/courtesy: USA Basketball

Team USA’s 78-game win streak snapped after loss to Australia

The USA Basketball’s Men’s National Team knew it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk as it pursued a third straight FIBA World Cup championship.

Against host Australia, which was buoyed by a thunderous crowd, the Americans found out their path will indeed be treacherous.

With Patty Mills – who plays for U.S. head coachGregg Popovich with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs – scoring his team’s final 10 points, Australia knocked off the U.S. 98-94 Saturday before 52,079 spectators at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. The U.S. beat Australia 102-86 two days earlier.

Mills finished with a game-high 30 points, including two clinching free throws with 11 seconds remaining. It was the first victory for Australia – ranked 11th by FIBA – over the U.S., which had won 78 straight in major international tournaments and exhibitions entering Saturday’s game.

“The Aussies gave us a great lesson as far as where we have to be and how we have to play in this kind of competition,” Popovich said. “So we’ll get used to that and hopefully learn.”

USA captain Kemba Walker came off the bench to score 22 points to lead the Americans, while Harrison Barnes had 20 points and six assists. Donovan Mitchell was the only other U.S. player to reach double figures with 12 points.

For Australia, Andrew Bogut had 16 points and nine rebounds, while Joe Ingles had 15 points and seven assists and Aron Baynes had 13 points. Mills, Bogut, Ingles and Baynes are among a half-dozen NBA players on the Boomers’ roster.

“Just watch tape and get more comfortable with our system,” Barnes said of what the U.S. needs to work on. “I think when you look at international play, every team that has been here for a long time but they kind of have their calling card on what they fall back into the system, sets. For us, we’re still getting to that point, we have some comfortability with it but it’s just continuing to be better at that.”

Following the game, the U.S. traveled to Sydney, where it will practice Sunday and play its final exhibition game before the World Cup. The U.S. will face Canada, ranked 23rd in the world by FIBA, on Monday. The Americans will have one more practice in Sydney before heading to China for the World Cup. The U.S., which currently has 13 active players, must make one more roster cut before the World Cup.

“The loss means that we need to play better,” Popovich said. “It’s a measure of who you are. Nobody wins forever. This is a group of guys that’s worked very hard, like I said, to get to know each other and get to know a system. And whatever comes, we can handle. Our job is to try to get better every day. We learned some things tonight. We’re actually a better team now than at the start of the game because of the knowledge from the game, so now we move on.”

The U.S. faces the Czech Republic to open the World Cup on Sept. 1 in Shanghai. Japan and Turkey are also in Group E. The U.S. needs to finish in the top seven to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games.

After clinging to a 49-48 lead at halftime, the Americans extended their advantage to 68-58 before the Aussies dug in. While acknowledging the Americans have pieces of their game to work on, Popovich credited the Aussies for playing an inspired game and earning a split of the two-game exhibition series.

“It’s really a testament to how long they stuck together to get this accomplished tonight,” Popovich said. “So, I’m going to give them credit at both ends of the court. They executed really well and they came up with the victory.”

Guard Marcus Smart, who had not played in either of the previous two exhibitions due to a calf injury, started for the U.S. The Boston Celtics star played nine minutes, 12 seconds and scored seven points, while grabbing one rebound and handing out three assists.

Walker, Turner lead Team USA past Australia

It was a celebration of basketball Thursday night in Australia as more than 50,000 fans packed Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium to see their Boomers take on the USA Basketball Men’s National Team.

While the scene was memorable, the fans left disappointed as the U.S. pulled away in the second half en route to a 102-86 victory. Make that two wins from two thus far in exhibition for the United States as it prepares for the upcoming FIBA World Cup in China Aug. 31-Sept. 15. U.S. captain Kemba Walker led all scorers with 23 points, and Myles Turner chipped in a double-double with 15 points and 14 boards. Donovan Mitchell accounted for 13 points, Kyle Kuzma san 4-of-5 3-pointers for 12 points and Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum scored 11 points each.

“It was a physical game, the competitiveness was great on both ends,” said USA head coach Gregg Popovich. “I thought the Boomers run some hellacious offense, really hard to guard, they do a great job moving and cutting. Coach (Andrej) Lemanis has got them at a high level in that regard.”

It was a fine shooting night in total for the Americans as they shot 48% from the field and 43% from 3. Walker led a balanced scoring attack in which six players – and four starters – scored in double figures.

There were some familiar faces on both benches, with six players on Australia occupying a place on NBA rosters. Notable friends turned foes were the USA’s Mitchell and Australia’s Joe Ingles, who are teammates on the Utah Jazz. The basketball-crazy Australian fans turned out to Marvel Stadium – normally home to Australian Rules Football and soccer – to cheer on their heroes as well as see some of the best players in the world from the United States.

“It was an incredible atmosphere,” said U.S. forward Tatum, “unique experience.”

Though such a basketball scene may be rare Down Under, it was perhaps a familiar sight to players like Walker and Mason Plumlee who played in the NCAA Final Four. The court setup echoed the modern treatment of that event, with a raised court in the middle of the floor and fans surrounding it in temporary seats.

There were maybe some nerves at play for the Boomers as Team USA raced out to a 6-0 lead early. But thanks to the sharp shooting from distance by Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills, Australia closed the gap.

Helping keep Australia at bay was Kuzma, who did not start but made an impact off the bench by going 3-4 from deep in the first quarter. His only miss rattled out on a half-court attempt at the buzzer.

Australia’s Ingles opened the second quarter with a jumper to tie it, then Andrew Bogut – coached last year at Golden State by USA assistant Steve Kerr – threw down an emphatic dunk seconds later as the Boomers opened up their biggest lead of the game at three. But from there it appeared the USA might run away with things. The Americans went on a 17-3 run, scoring inside and outside.  Tatum nailed back-to-back 3s to open up an 11-point lead at 39-28.

But the Australia defense clamped down to close the half. Mills – coached by Popovich in San Antonio – drilled a 3 just before the buzzer to complete a 15-5 run and reduce the U.S. lead to one. Australia’s Chris Goulding scored 10 points, all off the bench.

“Our transition defense was poor and they got three 3s in a row and that’s what happened down the stretch in the second quarter,” Popovich said. “I think they scored 12 points in two-and-a-half minutes and three of those buckets we those 3s.”

The third quarter opened as almost a carbon copy of the second. Australia grabbed a lead, and the U.S. matched with a big run. But this time, the Americans didn’t let Australia back in the game. After Australia went up 45-44, the U.S. then put together a 13-0 run. Kuzma checked in for the first time in the half with 5:20 to go and showed no signs of being cold. He hit his fourth 3 of the game 14 seconds later to extend the lead to 62-50.

The U.S. hit 13 of 19 shots in the third quarter and outscored Australia 32-18. The Boomers opened up the fourth quarter with a 3 by Aron Baynes to pull to within 12, but they got no closer. The balanced U.S. scoring attack continued to fire on all cylinders, even flashing some highlight-reel material with a splendid alley-oop from Tatum toBrown with 3:57 left. That score opened up a 20-point lead, the largest of the game.

Despite allowing Australia to make some runs in the first half, Popovich was pleased with the effort of his team that is still coming together with a major tournament just ahead.

“We got used to the physicality, and changed up a couple things and we had some guys that did a good job,” Popovich said. “Myles Turner came in and gave us a big punch there, he was great. Obviously Kemba in pick-and-roll is pretty tough to guard, so we’re learning what we should be running offensively and what we should be doing based on our personnel. We’re obviously not an experienced team, these guys have never played together, so I think they’re doing a really good job of trying to come together quickly and learn about each other.”

These two teams will square off again on Saturday from the same court as World Cup preparation continues. Now that the teams have some familiarity with each other, the U.S. will have to react to adjustments that Australia will make.

“We need to make a few adjustments, a few mistakes that we had,” Kuzma said. “Obviously, they are going to make adjustments, and we just got to react to those.”

“It definitely changes everything, because they kind of see what we are about, what we do.” said Turner. “We just have to be ready for them.”

Photo: USA Basketball

6 players added to USA Basketball Men’s National Team World Cup Training Camp Roster

USA Basketball Men’s National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo  today announced the addition of six players to the USA National Team and to the roster of players expected to participate in the team’s Aug. 5-9 training camp, and he also confirmed that eight previously announced team members who were expected to attend the World Cup training and exhibition games have withdrawn.

Additionally, USA Basketball announced the 13-member USA Select Team that will train alongside and against the USA National Team Aug. 5-9.

Athletes added to the USA National Team roster and confirmed to participate in the World Cup training camp include NBA standouts Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers), Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics) and Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls). Each of the six players possess previous USA Basketball experience.

Additional USA National Team members confirmed to participate in the World Cup Training Camp in Las Vegas include: Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz);Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); and Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics).

The 2018-20 USA Basketball National Team coaching staff features USA and San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. Serving as USA assistant coaches are Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce and Villanova University head coach Jay Wright.

No longer attending the USA training camp are: Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards); Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers); Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets); James Harden (Houston Rockets); Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers); Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers); Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers); CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers); and Paul Millsap (Denver Nuggets).

“Since USA Basketball started the men’s national team program in 2006, we have understood the necessity of fluidity within the program and the importance of having a deep national team roster that features both young and veteran standout NBA players,” said Colangelo. “The six players we added today are all outstanding players in their own right, and along with the other players who will attend the World Cup Team training camp, will offer Coach Popovich and his staff some remarkable athleticism and versatility.

“USA Basketball is looking to select the best team possible for the FIBA World Cup as we attempt to win a third straight gold medal. We have a deep roster of men who have played for USA Basketball and who have experienced playing in FIBA events, so they understand the competitiveness of FIBA basketball and have respect for the other national teams. We’re looking forward to exposing the selected players to FIBA World Cup competition and the incredible experience of representing their country in one of the world’s premiere basketball’s competitions.”

USA Basketball and Colangelo also today announced the 13-man USA Basketball Select Team that will train daily with the USA National Team from Aug. 5-8 at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. All practices are closed to the public.

The Select Team members also will join with the National Team players and participate in the USA Blue versus USA White exhibition game that is scheduled for 7 p.m. (PDT) Aug. 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.  For game ticket information visit usab.com/mnttickets.

Featuring seven players owning prior USA Basketball experience, the Select Team roster also includes four members of the 2018-19 NBA All-Rookie first and second teams.

Selected for the 2019 USA Basketball Select Team were: Jarrett Allen (Brooklyn Nets); Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings); Mikal Bridges  (Phoenix Suns); Jalen Brunson (Dallas Mavericks); John Collins (Atlanta Hawks); Pat Connaughton (Milwaukee Bucks); De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Jonathan Isaac (Orlando Magic); Mitchell Robinson (New York Knicks); Landry Shamet (Los Angeles Clippers/Wichita State); Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs); and Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks).

Former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy, who served as head coach of the 2017-19 USA Basketball’s six World Cup Qualifying Teams and the gold medalist 2017 USA AmeriCup team, will serve as head coach of the 2019 USA Basketball Select Team. Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, who served as head coach of the 2015 USA Pan American Games Team, will serve as a Select Team assistant coach.

“The purpose of the Select Team is to help prepare our National Team for the World Cup and to offer an opportunity for some younger NBA standouts to be involved in the USA Basketball National Team program,” said Colangelo. “These 13 players help extend the legacy of elite players who have been part of USA Basketball Select teams. Not only will this group help prepare the United States for the FIBA World Cup, but it will also provide them with valuable experience at the USA Basketball National Team level.”

Allen, Bagley, Brunson, Fox, Issac, White and Young all possess prior USA Basketball experience, and the 2019 USA Select Team features six players (Bagley, Bridges, Robinson, Shamet and Young) who completed their rookie NBA season in 2018-19, five players (Allen, Collins, Fox, Issac and White) who wrapped up their second NBA season, one fourth-year NBA player (Connaughton) and one fifth-year NBA player (Harris).

Bagley and Young were named to the 2018-19 NBA All-Rookie first team, Robinson and Shamet earned All-Rookie second team honors and Bridges received the highest point total of rookies to not make the 2018-19 All-Rookie first or second teams. Also, Collins was named 2017-18 All-Rookie second team.