World Cup Notes: Edwards, Team USA, Rocket Launch, Canada

Anthony Edwards has become the star of Team USA, but Steve Kerr and the rest of the coaching staff originally pictured him in a sixth-man role, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. When the coaches held their first vote on starters, they put Cameron Johnson in the lineup instead of Edwards. That changed by the second scrimmage, and Edwards’ role in the first five is now secure.

“I mean, of course I wasn’t cool with it,” Edwards said. “If that’s what it takes, I mean, I am willing to do it, but nah, I’m never cool with that. … (Coach Steve Kerr) said Dwyane Wade came off the bench when Kobe (Bryant) played. I was like, all right, we don’t have a Kobe, but all right.”

Kerr was referring to the 2008 Olympic team, where Wade was the top scorer as the sixth man. The coaches may have envisioned Edwards coming off the bench to spark the offense, but he’s proved throughout camp and exhibition play that he’s capable of more than that. Kerr referred to Edwards as “the guy” after his 34-point outburst Sunday against Germany, and his teammates agree.

“Yeah, I think so, (because of) his aggressiveness and confidence,” Mikal Bridges said. “(There are) so many guys that can go out there and score as well, but him going out there and scoring the ball helps us a lot. So I have no problem with that term at all.”

There’s more as the World Cup tournament prepares to tip off:

  • Team USA held its first practice Wednesday at the venue in the Philippines where it will play all its World Cup games, according to The Associated Press. Okinawa, Japan, and Jakarta, Indonesia, will also serve as host cities for pool play, but the medal rounds will be held in Manila, so the Americans won’t have to travel if they advance.
  • Preparations in Okinawa weren’t affected by a North Korean rocket launch on Thursday, but some of the players were shaken up, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The launch was unsuccessful, and practices and press conferences went on as scheduled. “It was a little scary,” Luka Doncic said. “I didn’t sleep much.” 
  • Canada has officially released its final World Cup roster, which includes seven current NBA players. After going 3-2 in exhibition play, Canada will face France, Lebanon and Latvia in pool play.
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