Team USA coach Steve Kerr plans to stick with the lineup change he made against Jordan, keeping Josh Hart in the starting five in place of Brandon Ingram, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Kerr wants to maximize his starters’ rebounding as the Americans prepare to face two NBA centers — Montenegro’s Nikola Vucevic on Friday and Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas on Sunday. Hart is shorter than Ingram, but he has made a greater impact on the boards, picking up 12 rebounds Wednesday.
“Josh has a strength and a tenacity to him that sometimes overcomes a height disadvantage. He’s used to guarding bigger guys with all the switching that happens in the NBA,” Kerr said. “I really liked the lineup shift for (Ingram). The game was much smoother. … I know he enjoyed it.”
Kerr has used the same starting lineup since training camp, but Hart’s performance and Ingram’s inability to find scoring opportunities with the starting unit led to the change. Ingram is on board with the move as he got to handle the ball more often Wednesday, picking up five assists in 15 minutes.
“I felt good out there. It was different coming off the bench. I hadn’t done that since my rookie season,” Ingram said. “I was able to get prepared for it. It was just a different lineup, and I was excited for the opportunity.”
There’s more on the World Cup:
- With pool play over, the U.S. can significantly help its positioning with two wins in the second round, Windhorst adds. Victories over Montenegro and Lithuania would make Team USA the equivalent of the number one seed in the medal round, providing more rest between the quarterfinals and semifinals. “We went over the format today with the team in the film session,” Kerr said. “And yeah, we want to win both games to put us in great position. The guys are aware.”
- Kerr and his team are supportive of American players who get the opportunity to represent other countries, per Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. Team USA has already squared off against U.S. natives Thomas Walkup with Greece and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with Jordan, and it will face Kendrick Perry when it meets Montenegro. “I think that’s cool because those are guys that you’d probably not see making the U.S. team,” Tyrese Haliburton said. “… It’s cool when Americans get this kind of opportunity and figure out how to show their talents internationally.”
- Paolo Banchero is wearing a wrap on his right thumb after spraining it in a recent game, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Banchero said the injury is minor and won’t keep him out of action.