Team USA looking forward to Boomers games

Team USA arrived early Monday morning. Despite being fresh off a long flight and likely jetlag, the US players sound ready and prepared mentally for the upcoming games against the Australian Boomers, to be played out this week at Marvel Stadium on Thursday and Saturday.

USAB head coach Gregg Popovich has consistently showered praise on the Boomers in the lead up to the World Cup, and this session proved no exception.

"Exactly what I see, every time they play," Coach Pop shared, over a media session conducted during USA Basketball (USAB) practice, over at the Melbourne Sports & Aquatic Centre. "Coach Lemanis has them... they're [relentless], physically tough. They run their offence and execute it really well.

"That's a team that loves each other, been playing together, experienced, and I would think, that's going to continue, that's what they do. It's a hell of a group."

The Boomers, who played Canada Basketball last week, struggled in the first game, suffering a 20-point loss on Friday, before rallying with a comeback win on Saturday night, despite resting both Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills.

Khris Middleton knows the challenge this iteration of Team USA faces with regards to chemistry. Unlike the earlier squads that had good continuity, the recent rash of withdrawals, combined with multiple new faces, resulted in a very fresh squad that has had limited time playing together.

"Other teams, other countries have been together for years... I think our guys are doing a great job of grasping everything, and just trying to gel together as quickly, as best as we can."

Like Middleton, Kemba Walker understands the advantage Australia's experience playing together brings, but is focused on what the games could build for his team for the actual tournament.

"Right now, we're just focused on getting our stuff down pat. The stuff that we work on at practice, our plays, our defensive schemes, rotations, things like that. we're trying to clean those things up, get better with those things. Of course we want to win - both teams want to win, I'm sure. When we go out there, we're going to battle as much as we can.

"But the main goal right now is to get better - game by game, day by day, practice by practice, leading up to China."

Despite the newness of the group, Coach Popovich relishes the challenge of making it all come together, for this year's Team USA squad.

"We start at the beginning; try to figure out as quickly as we can what suits this particular group of players. Who are your go-to guys? Who understands this offence or that offence? What kind of a defensive team can you be?

"You look at the players, figure that out as soon as you can, and work at it. It’s kind of a quick study, in a sense, because you don’t have a whole training camp or season. You just have a training camp, but the challenge is exciting, to tell you the truth. It’s a lot of fun, because you know you have to really concentrate and get things done quickly, so it’s exciting."

Middleton, who played alongside Matthew Dellavedova earlier in the season, knows the effort Delly will be putting forth in the coming week.

"[Dellavedova] is a great teammate of mine, great friend. I know he was talking about it last year, about how exciting this game would be for them, and for us. But to compete against him, I know he's a warrior. He's going to do everything for his country."

Brook Lopez is looking forward to the challenge of being in enemy territory, against the home crowd that awaits at Marvel Stadium. "It's exciting, it's obviously up there. It's going to be such a great environment, great test for us. We're going to go out there, there's 14 of us against that whole crowd and the Australian team. It'll be a lot of fun."

Joe Ingles, ever the trash talker, talked about the possibility of dunking on Utah Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell, when interviewed post-game last week. "I might get my first dunk on someone in a while," Ingles suggested with a smile.

Mitchell, when asked about the ongoing trash talk, laughed. "Honestly, I really don't know - that's the funny part. I mean, we joke a lot and goof off in practice and compete. I'm expecting a lot of trash talking from him and I'm excited about it.

"I've been looking forward to this ever since I told him that I was playing for the US team, so I'm excited, it's going to be a lot of fun. Just going out and challenge each other, make each other better."

The Jazz guard is also looking forward to the prospect of playing in front of a huge crowd.

"Obviously, basketball has grown. You've got guys like [Ingles], Patty Mills, Bogut, Baynes, all these guys coming over and playing, makes for a lot more fan support.

"And the fact that we're playing in front of a, 50, 60 thousand? That shows a lot in itself. That's what I'm really excited about - being able to play against 60,000 fans who are A) cheering against us and B) just enjoying the game of basketball."

USA basketball game schedule

  • Australian Boomers vs USA Basketball, Thursday 22 August 2019 , 7:30pm

  • Australian Boomers vs USA Basketball, Saturday 24 August 2019, 2:00pm

  • USA Basketball vs Canada Basketball, Monday 26 August 2019, 7:30pm

All times are denoted in AEST, and games available via SBS and SBS On Demand.