‘Winning the gold’ at World Cup is utmost priority for USA men’s basketball team
LAS VEGAS — The first order of business for USA Basketball on Friday night was thanking its fans, so guard Donovan Mitchell grabbed a microphone to deliver the pregame message.
He got right to the point.
“We look forward to going out to China, representing the USA, and winning the gold,” Mitchell said.
And now, the first step of getting ready for an unprecedented third straight Basketball World Cup title is complete.
USA Basketball held its Blue-White game to wrap up a week of training camp and the Blue squad — the national team candidates, for the most part — had little trouble in beating the White squad composed mostly of young up-and-coming NBA players, 97-78. Jayson Tatum scored 17 points for the Blue, which got 14 from Kemba Walker and 12 from De’Aaron Fox.
Everybody who was supposed to play did, new U.S. coach Gregg Popovich got to tinker with a lot of combinations and no one got seriously hurt — thankfully, there was no reprise of the scene like the one five years ago during a USA Basketball exhibition game in Las Vegas, when Paul George suffered a serious leg injury.
In short, that made the night a success. Everything else was just details.
Derrick White — who plays for Popovich in San Antonio, and was getting coached up by him a bit during Friday’s scrimmage as well — finished with 12 points and seven assists for the White team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. John Collins also scored 12 and Jonathan Isaac added 11 points for the White squad.
Popovich and his staff will have to move quickly over the next few days to figure out which 12 players to take to China for the World Cup, which starts Aug. 31. The Americans open group play on Sept. 1 against the Czech Republic in Shanghai.
Popovich started Mitchell, Walker, Jaylen Brown, Myles Turner and Khris Middleton. The next five into the game was Tatum, Fox, Brook Lopez, Joe Harris and Kyle Kuzma.
From there, Harrison Barnes, P.J. Tucker, Mason Plumlee, Bam Adebayo and Thaddeus Young eventually got worked in. The Blue led by as many as 30.
Briefly: Kyle Lowry of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors told NBA TV during the game that he will meet with his surgeon, Dr. Michelle Carlson from the Hospital for Special Surgery, on Monday — at which time he may know when he can return to action. Lowry, who had surgery last month to repair a torn tendon in his left thumb, is hoping to participate in national team workouts next week. ... The Americans will reconvene at the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo on Tuesday to resume camp. The U.S. will play Spain in an exhibition in Anaheim on Aug. 16 before flying to Australia the next day.