Gregg Popovich, the head coach of the US basketball team told earlier today that he doesn’t think his players are C level. The media and some of the experts are constantly claiming that USMNT doesn’t have any elite players. They believe that the unit led by the Spurs coach is far away from the strongest one.
The United States team faced numerous withdrawals before the FIBA World Cup in China. Ten big names from the initial roster Popovich has made decided that it is better for them to focus on the upcoming NBA season than to play for the national team. All of those guys are the leaders in their franchises, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Tobias Harris, CJ McCollum.
Popovich and the coaching staff around him had a plan on how to cover up all these absences. But some of the players who were invited additionally refused to wear the national jersey. So now, Pop, Kerr and the rest of the staff turned to less sounding names. Guys like Thaddeus Young, Bam Adebayo, PJ Tucker, and Harrison Barnes are on the roster now, which caused for many to have serious doubt in the USA’s strength.
A testy Gregg Popovich goes full Pop at USA Basketball practice: “Why don’t you ask me how happy I am? Unbelievably happy. God, I’ll be so glad when I don’t have to do this any more. Does anyone else want to give it a shot?” pic.twitter.com/aTHYWpQRgh
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) August 6, 2019
For Popovich, however, there are no doubts. He still believes that this team will win the tournament in China.
“I’ve said that we’re going to be fine and by that what I really meant is that we’re blessed with a lot of depth in USA Basketball,” he said.
What Pop emphasized is the fact that all of the players present at the minicamp wanted to play, which is very important.
“All of the players here want to be here; there’s no question about it.”:
Regarding the quality of the players, the 70-year old coach is absolutely positive that they aren’t behind the ones who declined the invitation.
“These are not ‘C’ players. You’ve heard a lot of criticism about who isn’t here, and I keep repeating that it’s about who is here. There’s some really good talent, and it’s going to be difficult getting to a 12-man roster when you really think about it.”
Still, there are lots of reasons to disagree with the five-time champ on this matter. For example, this roster has only one player who earned the spot in the All-NBA team, and that is Kemba Walker, who was in the third lineup. He and Khris Midleton are the only All-Stars from this team. If Kyle Lowry recovers soon enough that will make three of them.
Having in mind that some of the previous teams had even 10 All-Star players, Popovich’s statements could be challenged.
What makes the fans in the USA confident is the coaching staff, which couldn’t be better at this moment. Besides Pop, there is Steve Kerr, as well as Mike Krzyzewski, who is attending all the practices.
Training camp is underway for the #USABMNT, and two words are the focus for head coach Gregg Popovich:
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) August 6, 2019
These guys have a lot of work ahead of them, not only during the preparation period but also while scouting the potential opponents. And to be honest, there will be several teams who might surprise the USA.
For example, Canada. The NBA champion, Nick Nurse, leads this crew, and the northern neighbors are loaded with NBA quality. Even though Jamal Murray won’t be involved in summer activities, Canada has one hell of a team.
Australia is solid as well, Greece comes to China with the NBA MVP Ginnis Antetokounmpo. Serbia is strong also, with the All-NBA first team center, Nikola Jokic.
All in all, defending the gold medal might be a very tough task for the American team.
Walker and the boys are starting the tournament against the Czech Republic on September 1.