The veteran coach Gregg Papovich, of the San Antonio Spurs, who will make his Olympic debut as head of the United States national team, acknowledged that the friendly match that they will play this Sunday against Spain is the most “important” of the preparation cycle for the Games Tokyo 2020.
Popovich, who was one of those who within USA Basketball asked to include Spain in the group of teams that arrived in Las Vegas (Nevada) to play the preparation games, considers the current world champions as the “maximum” expression of foreign basketball, for which he professes great respect.
After suffering the second defeat against Australia 83-91, previously they had also lost against Nigeria (87-90), Popovich openly faced a journalist when he questioned the poor game that the United States team had made against a rival , which on paper was very inferior.
“What he just said is disrespecting foreign basketball that is of great quality,” Popovich said. “Our rivals have a great level and they showed it on the track by being better because in the end we did not do the necessary things to win.”
Against Spain, Popovich will have the opportunity to face the team that he considers the most complete in foreign basketball, having great defense, good ball handling, excellent shooters and a great technical team.
“I have no doubts about the great quality of players that we have in the group that we have selected, but we still need to show that the work that we have done during the preparation in Las Vegas to identify ourselves as a team has been positive,” said Popovich. “Against Spain we will have a unique opportunity to show it on the pitch.”
Popovich, who admitted the “frustration” of having to dismiss guard Bradley Beal, from the Washington Wizards, after catching COVID-19, said that the arrival of Keldom Johnson and that of center JaVale McGee due to the withdrawal power forward Kevin Love’s volunteer, would further strengthen the squad.
“Two players arrive, the first (Johnson) has worked with us all the time in training so the understanding is complete with the rest of the teammates, and McGee has a great capacity for understanding and adaptation.”
McGee is a player that Popovich’s assistant coach, Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors knows very well, where he had him for two seasons, and he was always a major force within the inside game, as well as having a great team mentality.
– USA Basketball (@usabasketball) July 16, 2021
Popovich believes that the key to achieving victory against Spain will be good team play, as happened against Argentina, but above all to maintain constant defensive pressure and not lose concentration at any time.
“We are going to face the world champion team with players from the Gasol brothers class and a Ricky Rubio who knows better than anyone how to move and direct the players when he is in possession of the ball,” said Popovich. “I am sure that the duel against Spain will be of great use to us in all aspects.”
Popovich stressed that after the match in Spain, the time they have to prepare when they arrive in Japan will be minimal, so they will have to make the most of Sunday’s duel, which will be more than a friendly for the team’s operation.
The United States delegation plans to travel to Tokyo next Monday, by charter flight, and their Olympic debut will be on July 25 when they face the French team.