LAS VEGAS — There were times during this week’s training camp when Team USA looked a little rough in scrimmages as it started its process of defending its World Cup title.
But Friday night, the team showed why it remains the favorite. The collective talent showed up in an exhibition game against the younger Select Team as Team USA won easily 97-78.
After the game, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo announced Thaddeus Young and Bam Adebayo had been cut from the senior roster. Select Team members Derrick White and Marvin Bagley III were promoted to the senior roster and will join the team next week when training continues in Los Angeles.
The team now has 17 players on the roster, with injured guards Kyle Lowry (thumb) and Marcus Smart (calf) to be reexamined early next week. There probably will be another cut before next weekend, when the Americans depart for Australia for three exhibition games, but the team might not cut to the final 12 until 48 hours before its first World Cup game in China on Sept. 1, Colangelo said.
The roster moves were based mostly on play during the week, not just on Friday night’s showing.
“It’s the beginning, a new tournament, another World Cup, and I think our guys are making progress,” new U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. “They haven’t played together before. Showing great effort, doing a good job in a lot of different ways, just trying to get used to each other and form a team. We’re still in those early stages of trying to get together, figure out how we want to play and learn about each other.”
That business aside, Team USA’s guards looked excellent with veteran Kemba Walker taking his expected role as leader. Walker scored 14 points with four assists in 16 minutes, part of a fluid offense that hit 11 of 27 3-pointers and racked up 23 assists in the 40-minute game. Team USA shot 57% from the field overall.
“We had a great week of practice, and this game was all about showcasing what we learned,” Walker said. “We shared the basketball, we played together and we communicated. We’re just trying to take steps forward.”
Donovan Mitchell, who started in the backcourt with Walker, also played well with eight points and four assists. Popovich and his staff had high expectations for Mitchell coming into the week, and he has been the best player on the floor at times.
“We had competitive practices, and today you saw it spill onto the floor,” Mitchell said. “This is just the beginning of a long journey. We’re continuing to build.”
De’Aaron Fox, Walker’s backup, had 12 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals in 15 minutes. After initially being on the Select Team, Fox was promoted to the senior team and has all but locked up a roster spot for China with his play during the week, especially with Lowry’s injury status uncertain.
Jayson Tatum, who might have shot the ball better than anyone on the team during practices this week, continued that Friday, making his first three 3-point attempts and scoring a game-high 17 points.
The Select Team shot just 33% from the field and went 3-of-26 on 3-pointers.
After practices next week, the U.S. will play Spain in an exhibition in Anaheim, California, on Aug. 16 before flying to Australia the next day.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.