Anyone who has watched the Spurs frequently will see plenty of similarities in this year’s version of Team USA, writes Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. Head coach Gregg Popovich has incorporated his system into the international squad that will be competing for gold at the FIBA World Cup tournament.
With so many elite players declining invitations to training camp, Popovich has far less star power than his predecessor, Mike Krzyzewski. It’s a situation familiar to San Antonio since the decline of the Tim Duncan–Tony Parker–Manu Ginobili era.
“We’ll up our assist total even more than what you saw tonight as we become more familiar with each other and feel more comfortable with the system,” Popovich said after Friday’s first public scrimmage. “(On defense), there’s been absolutely no problem with the effort and the physicality. It’s just a matter of getting wiser and more habitual.”
There’s more World Cup news to pass along:
- The chance to play for Popovich was among the perks for the players who decided to participate, relays Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. Few of them have ever worked with Popovich, who is regarded as one of the best coaches in NBA history. “He’s my favorite coach of all time,” Kyle Kuzma said. “Growing up, I was a hoops junkie, watching a lot of the Spurs teams and he’s won at every level he’s been at. So, to be here and learn, to be around him, it’s really great.” Several others agreed, with Brook Lopez saying, “It’s always been a dream” and Jaylen Brown adding, “Playing for Gregg Popovich, I’ll do that any day of the week.”
- Fresh off winning a title in his first year as an NBA head coach, Nick Nurse is now trying to capture a medal for Canada, notes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. The Canadians have a busy exhibition schedule before World Cup play begins. “I don’t know how to explain this. It’s more like what these games do is, they present a lot of teaching moments,” Nurse said. “Like when you see an opponent, now you’re seeing something you haven’t even covered yet, so you’ve got a chance to teach it and grow your schemes and your defensive package.”
- Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic doesn’t consider Team USA the favorites in this year’s tournament, according to a EuroHoops story. Serbia’s roster includes All-Star center Nikola Jokic, along with several other names familiar to NBA fans such as Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nemanja Bjelica, Miroslav Raduljica, Boban Marjanovic and Milos Teodosic. “Let’s let them (Team USA) play their basketball and we will play ours and if we meet, may God help them,” Djordjevic said.