Team USA coach Gregg Popovich believes the loss to Australia in Saturday’s exhibition game may turn out to be a positive experience, relays Steve Drumwright of USA Basketball. The Americans split a pair of games in Australia, pulling away in the second half Friday before dropping a 98-94 decision yesterday. It was the team’s first loss in international play in 13 years.
“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 defeat raised more doubts about whether Team USA should be considered a heavy favorite heading into the World Cup, which starts Saturday. The Americans have been left short-handed after a series of stars withdrew from the team and will face several talented clubs who have a lot more experience playing together. The U.S. will play its final exhibition game tomorrow against Canada.
There’s more World Cup news this morning:
- Popovich was happy for Spurs guard Patty Mills, who had 30 points in the game, although he joked with reporters that “we’ve already traded Patty.” (Video link from Bleacher Report).
- Donovan Mitchell, one of only two Americans to reach double figures in the loss, tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic that the outcome wasn’t important. “Obviously it hurts to lose, but I look at this and we look at this as more of a learning experience as opposed to we just lost,” Mitchell said. “That’s the mindset. If you think of this as a loss, you start to get carried away with all that. We’re focused on the film. … We’re going to watch it on the plane and we’re going to be ready for Canada. That’s the best thing. You want to win every game, but you learn a lot in losses too.”
- Unlike many of his high-profile teammates, the Nets‘ Joe Harris came a long way to earn a spot on Team USA, observes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. He received an invitation to the Select Team and worked his way onto the main roster. It’s a familiar story for Harris, who had to struggle to win an NBA roster spot after being traded, waived and undergoing foot surgery in 2016, all on the same day.