Team USA opens its 2014 FIBA World Cup against Finland at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, and the Americans figure to encounter little to no resistance – not only from Finland, but from the rest of Group C, which also includes Turkey, Ukraine, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic.
In fact, Team USA might be more worried, at least for now, about catching up on sleep and getting acclimated to Spain – as opposed to the actual competition on the floor. In recent weeks, the Americans have traveled from Chicago to New York to the Grand Canary. That’s a bit of an adjustment, no?
“Yeah, it is,” Team USA assistant coach Monty Williams said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Some of our guys have had a bit of a time adjusting because of the travel. (Mike Krzyzewski) has done a good job of being consistent with taking care of their legs, (but) at the same time, you’re seven, eight hours away form your normal time zone. It can mess with you. Most days here, I wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning and I’m wide awake, ready to go. And I’m sure our players have more of an adjustment because they’re doing a lot more.”
Many players we thought would play for Team USA – LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, to name a few – dropped out for various reasons, but the Americans still figure to be the most talented squad of the tournament. They expect to start Krie Irving, Steph Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried.
Williams, who also coaches Davis in New Orleans, is pleased with the way the 6-10 big man played this summer in exhibition games. In fact, the FIBA World Cup could be an international coming-out party for Davis, whom many scouts consider to be a top-five player in the NBA.
What might this experience do for Davis in terms of being the alpha male on a team full of alpha males?
“For his career, we’ll see,” Williams said. “But for his confidence, it kind of affirms all the work he’s put into his game, a lot of the sacrifices he’s made, spending his summers in New Orleans with our coaching staff – which is something a lot of players don’t want to do.”
Davis, 21, averaged 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game for New Orleans last season. He doesn’t have to average quite those numbers in Spain, but he’ll still be a key piece of the puzzle.
“I think for him, it affirms that he is a great player and he’s only going to get better,” Williams said. “We have games to play and we have a ways to go, but thus far, he’s been dominant on both ends of the floor. He’s starting to earn (the) trust . . . of his teammates. They look for him to make plays. He should be comfortable with that because we look for him to make plays all the time in New Orleans. So I think it’s great for him to know that he can be a leader on a team that has James Harden, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose – all these guys who carry their teams. He’s the one that’s carried the load for a number of our games.”