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‘SPREAD OUT THE FLOOR’ Team USA to wield youth, speed in World Cup bid

‘It’s really about making them miss and forcing them into tough shots at the rim.’

COACH Steve Kerr will put premium on fast-paced attacks as he huddles up the young Team USA during practice Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena. | Brian Choi/agence France-presse

MANILA (AFP) — A talented United States team of young National Basketball Association players will try to capture the Basketball World Cup with a fast-paced attacking style and a physical defensive scheme.

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr guides a formidable squad of Americans in their 20s who seek a third global crown in the past four attempts at the World Cup, which begins 25 August in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.

“We put together the team with the idea of having a lot of good passers and playmakers,” Kerr said. “We really want to push the tempo, attack closeouts because once we spread out the floor, these guys will distribute and move it.”

New York guard Jalen Brunson, who averaged career highs of 24.0 points and 6.2 assists last season, went 9-for-9 and scored 23 points in a 98-88 exhibition victory at reigning World Cup champion Spain.

Add in NBA All-Star guards Anthony Edwards of Minnesota and Tyrese Haliburton of Indiana — the US assists leader — and Austin Reaves of the Los Angeles Lakers and the US lineup offers flair and versatility.

“On any given night, literally anyone on our team can win us the game,” Reaves said. “We want to play at a fast pace because we have so many guys that can really play the game. Everybody can, so we can really sub a lot and just keep the pace of play up.”

FIBA rules offer some differences from the NBA standards, such as only five fouls before disqualification instead of six and only 40-minute contests rather than 48.

More physical contact is permitted as well, which delights Memphis star Jaren Jackson Jr., the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year and top NBA shot blocker each of the past two seasons.

“We can be a lot more physical,” Jackson said.

“Guards can be a lot more physical up high and funnel things to the bigs down low… we can get some more blocks, wall up some.”

“It’s really about making them miss and forcing them into tough shots at the rim.”

The frontline features 2022 NBA All-Defensive Team swingman Mikal Bridges of Brooklyn; New Orleans forward Brandon Ingram, the NBA’s 2020 Most Improved Player; 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero of Orlando and Bobby Portis, who helped Milwaukee win the 2021 NBA crown.

“You’re playing with some new players, so it’s an adjustment, but it’s fun,” Jackson said.

“This is not an opportunity that is going to repeat itself. You got to embrace every opportunity and in practice we’re having a lot of fun and just replicate that in the game.”

“We’re coming together. Our chemistry is getting better. Every game, we’re going to get better.”

After winning the 2010 and 2014 World Cup crowns, an American squad of mostly 20-somethings settled for a humbling seventh in the 2019 World Cup in China, falling to France in the quarter-finals.

They finished with the worst US showing in 15 major tournaments since NBA players began competing for the US national squad.

This year’s team has lofty goals beyond a last-eight exit from the title hunt.

“We’ve jelled really fast as a team. It shows the way we play the game,” Reaves said.

“We know we have a lot of talent and we can do a lot of great things but it’s all about becoming one unit and going and playing for one another.”

The Americans will begin World Cup play with Group C matches in Manila against New Zealand, Greece and Jordan.

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