Team USA Notes: Portis, Hart, Jackson, Kerr

Team USA continues to look comfortable in the favorite’s role in this year’s World Cup. After going undefeated in five exhibition games, the Americans routed Greece on Tuesday for their second straight double-digit victory in pool play. Austin Reaves, a favorite of the Manila crowd because of his ties to the Lakers, led the way with 15 points, five rebounds and six assists.

Bobby Portis told reporters, including Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops, that the U.S. team quickly formed a bond despite not playing together before training camp began early this month.

“We stand together, obviously, it’s a journey, a long road ahead for us,” Portis said. “Two more weeks left with this team, and hopefully, we can get to the final round. We’ve been together for three and a half weeks now. Nobody complains about playing time, everybody plays for each other, playing for the name you find on this jersey. That’s what this brand is about: playing for each other, going out here, winning and having fun.”

There’s more on Team USA:

  • Head coach Steve Kerr was especially impressed by Josh Hart, who came off the bench to grab 11 rebounds in 20 minutes against Greece, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Hart missed the first exhibition game while waiting to finalize his extension with the Knicks, but he has become one of the team’s primary reserves. “People ask, what position does he play? He plays winner,” Kerr said. “I don’t know what position he plays, but he gets loose balls. He guards anybody. At one point, Spo (Erik Spoelstra) turned to me and said, ‘Some people get 50-50 balls. He gets to 30-70 balls,’ and I thought that was really well said.”
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. found himself in foul trouble in the opener against New Zealand, much like he often has with the Grizzlies, observes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year believes he needs to challenge as many shots as he can, but Kerr is encouraging him to be more discerning. “He’s foul-prone in the NBA,” Kerr said. “So, there’s always one or two plays where you just want him to let it go, because he’s too important to us. So we share those clips and just remind him sometimes the best play is to just let the guy go and don’t pick up the foul.”
  • The American players quickly learned that the international game is officiated differently than the NBA, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Defenders tend to be more aggressive and are allowed to get away with more contact. “Everybody is going to try to beat the crap out of us because that’s their best chance to beat us,” Kerr said.
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