The FIBA Naismith Trophy has been touring around the world lately, and made a stop in Las Vegas a few weeks ago as Team USA witnessed its beauty from up close. Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton admitted that this just made him want to win the title even more.
“It’s nice to see it,” the U.S. guard said. “It’ll be nicer if we bring it home.”
Finally this Friday, the 32-team race to conquer the World Cup will be underway in the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan. Last time around in 2019, the United States had its worst-ever finish with a 7th place after 12 years of dominating the tournament.
Team USA takes the TOP SPOT in the power rankings for the 2023 FIBA World Cup 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/7VxffHIXXo
— Basketball Forever (@bballforever_) August 21, 2023
“We’re going to compete. We’re going to play as hard as we can. We’re going to try to win a gold medal,” head coach Steve Kerr assured. “If we don’t, we understand there will be plenty of criticism and we’re OK with that. But our approach is, this is incredibly fun, we’re unbelievably fortunate to be able to do this and to compete and know that we did everything we could. We’re putting in the effort. We want to win. But whatever happens happens — and we’ll live with that.”
Even though the United States are at the top of the competition’s power rankings, there are no shortage of challengers for the title. France, Slovenia, Canada, Australia and Spain, the defending champions, are all contenders for the Naismith Trophy.
“Honestly, I hate the definition of defending anything,” said Sergio Scariolo, Spain’s coach. “We are not defending anything. Every team is starting a new, fresh competition. Every team starts 0-0. We have been proud to exceed any expectations during the last competitions, winning championships which nobody predicted beforehand. We might win and we are starting from, once again, behind several teams in the expectations of the final result.”
U.S. star Jalen Brunson explains why ‘there’s no such thing as pressure’ while they are concentrated in this Saturday’s opener
The tournament starts this Friday with eight matches, and eight more on Saturday, including the U.S. opener against New Zealand.
Coach Steve Kerr is only a game away from seeing history in the inaugural contest, as he first participated in a FIBA competition as a college player back in 1986. The Warriors trainer knows how powerful the World Cup stage can be. “This experience,” he said, “is something our team will never forget.”
Check out this Thurday’s training session, as Team USA had practice at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila:
Knicks star Jalen Brunson reveals the team doesn’t feel the pressure of being the tournament’s favorites, as they are well aware there’s no shortage of talent in their roster.
“For me personally, there’s no such thing as pressure,” the point guard said. “I have figured it out that as long as I continue really working hard on my game, putting everything I can into what I do, there’s no such thing as pressure. Now there are different moments, situations where the stakes are higher than the others, but as long as I keep working hard there really is no pressure. And I think this team is going to rely on each other.”