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Young, untested Americans vie in World Cup

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE | JAREN Jackson Jr., Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, Brandon Ingram, Jalen Brunson, Austin Reaves, Mikal Bridges, Bobby Portis, Walker Kessler, Cam Johnson and Paolo Banchero represent the United States in the FIBA World Cup in Manila.

The United States is set to deploy a young and untested team when the Philippines hosts the FIBA Basketball World Cup from 25 August to 10 September.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, reigning National Basketball Association Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero of the Orlando Magic became the 11th player to commit to Team USA, which will battle Jordan, Greece and New Zealand in Group C of the preliminaries at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Prior to Banchero, who was initially being wooed to play for Italy, also expressing their commitments to see action for the Americans are NBA Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson of the Memphis Grizzlies, Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans, Austin Reeves of the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers.

Also included are Jalen Brunson of the New York Knicks, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets, Bobby Portis of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Walker Kessler of the Utah Jazz.

Interestingly, nobody in the current roster has significant experience at the elite level like the World Cup or the Summer Olympics after NBA stars like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, Kyrie Irving of the Dallas Mavericks, LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers and James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers have begged off.

Former Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin said it appears that USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill and head coach Steve Kerr experienced a tough time convincing the veterans to suit up in the prestigious 32-nation tournament that will also be co-hosted by Japan and Indonesia.

“No conspiracies here. This is about who is available, I think,” Baldwin said in an online exchange with Daily Tribune on Sunday morning.

“They will be tough but not scary. If they get chemistry, they can win it. But I suspect they won’t.”

TNT Tropang Giga coach Jojo Lastimosa agrees with the observation of Baldwin, saying that it’s going to be tough for the Americans to knock the crown off the Spaniards’ heads with such a young and inexperienced roster.

“It’s hard for that team to go all the way. No (Jayson) Tatum, no (Devin) Booker and no AD (Davis),” said Lastimosa, stressing that the absence of marquee players puts organizers in a very challenging situation as far as earning revenue is concerned.

“I think it’s going to be more challenging for the organizers, especially now that the World Cup isn’t going to have some of the big names for Team USA. Although there are other stars playing for different teams, it’s going to be interesting how the organizers can plan on this.”

“I don’t think it’s challenging to market the World Cup. But it’s different when you have Steph (Curry) and KD (Durant) playing there.”

Meralco coach Norman Black offered a different take, emphasizing that the Americans still have the firepower, the youthful energy and the defensive intensity to compete against the best teams in the world like reigning champion Spain, Greece and Serbia.

“You have the reigning Rookie of the Year, the Defensive Player of the Year and several guys who can score like Ingram, Edwards, Austin Reaves, so there’s enough talent to compete,” Black said in a telephone interview.

Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach Tim Cone said the Americans will definitely be “fun to watch.”

“They are bringing the young guns and the emerging superstars of the NBA,” said Cone, who is assisting Gilas head coach Chot Reyes in their training camp in Estonia.

“All of them are the respective stars of their teams except for maybe Portis or Reaves. And don’t forget who is coaching them: Steve Kerr and Coach Spi (Erik Spoelstra), the superstars of NBA coaching. They will be formidable and fun to watch.”

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