The USA World Cup finalists roster currently includes 13 players — Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).
Donovan Mitchell scored 13 points, Khris Middleton added 12 and the U.S. topped Spain 90-81 on Friday night in a warmup exhibition in advance of the FIBA World Cup that starts in China on Aug. 31. The Americans shot 55 percent from the field, 58 percent from 3-point range and held a commanding 42-20 edge in rebounds. “It was a good chance to jump in the fray and see what this is all about,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said after his official debut as Mike Krzyzewski’s replacement with the national team. “It was like a baptism for us. New group, players, coaches, all that sort of thing. It was a real experience.”
So for Pop-watchers of a certain age, it’s hard to resist rewinding to the height of his reverence for the Jazz every time Popovich huddles with the budding Utah star Donovan Mitchell these days — a frequent occurrence on the U.S.A. Basketball practice floor. A picture of coach and player after a recent intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas, side by side and backs to the camera, slammed home the point: Mitchell has begun a six-week course of higher learning under Popovich.
Storyline: USA Basketball
Popovich still isn’t sure what he has roster-wise, but he can point to at least one luxury as he finally settles into his dream job as Mike Krzyzewski’s successor: Mitchell’s rise alongside the All-Star guard Kemba Walker will enable the United States to field an elite starting backcourt at the FIBA World Cup in China from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15. “Just try to throw yourself completely into it,” Snyder said he told Mitchell. “And try to communicate with Coach as much as you can. Be a sponge.”