Despite the absence of their biggest stars, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas President Al Panlilio believes that Team USA is still the team to beat in the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
Asked about the lack of stars in Team USA’s roster during the special Philippine Sportswriters Association event for the FIBA World Cup, Panlilio mentioned that they initially expected to witness the NBA’s brightest stars competing in the world meet.
However, after observing the series of tune-up matches that the American team participated in over the last couple of weeks, the SBP chief is convinced that Team USA’s roster, consisting of up-and-coming NBA stars, will pose the most significant threat to all the teams in the global showpiece.
“Initially, we wanted a Tier 1 [USA] team. But if you look at the lineup, it’s a pretty formidable team. I don’t know if you’ve been watching their recent games. I just saw the highlights of their matches against Slovenia and Spain. It’s a pretty tough team,” said Panlilio during the press conference held on Tuesday at the Meralco compound.
Panlilio mentioned that Team USA’s head coach Steve Kerr and his assistant, Filipino-American tactician Erik Spoelstra, have done a tremendous job in preparing the young squad for the upcoming FIBA competitions.
“I think it’s also because of two people: Steve Kerr and Erik Spoelstra. So, if you see, the USA team is strong,” he said.
“They might not be your veteran superstars, but these are upcoming, highly-contracted NBA players, high-quality players, and with the coaching of Steve and Erik Spoelstra, the USA team is the team to beat. They beat Spain, right? They beat Spain.”
New York’s Jalen Brunson, Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, and New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram are expected to lead Team USA’s redemption campaign in the world meet following a disastrous seventh-place finish in the 2019 edition in China.
Apart from these three players, Mikal Bridges (Brooklyn), Paolo Banchero (Orlando), Tyrese Haliburton (Indiana), and Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis) are all expected to play significant roles in the team’s rotation.
Completing the team are Josh Hart (New York), Cam Johnson (Brooklyn), Walker Kessler (Utah), Bobby Portis (Milwaukee), and Austin Reaves (Los Angeles Lakers).
For Gilas head coach Chot Reyes, it doesn’t matter who is in or out of the nations competing.
What matters is who they are facing, namely the Dominican Republic, Angola, and Italy.
“What happens outside the team is of little concern for us. Our focus is on ourselves and the three teams we are playing against,” he said.