Popovich begins practice with US basketball team

Gregg Popovich knows he doesn’t need to spend a lot of time teaching basketball to his Olympians.

His main priority is to make them a team.

That process is officially underway and the first practice took place Tuesday in Las Vegas with a view to the Olympics that kick off in less than three weeks. Popovich’s message at the team’s first meeting on Monday night and at the first practice on Tuesday was simple and similar: He wants the team to quickly build strength knowing that many teams they will face in the competition have players who they have played together for years.

“We must take advantage of their abilities, their strengths and play together, play for each other, with one thought in mind,” declared Popovich: “Win everything.”

These Olympics are Popovich’s first at the helm. He led the US team at the 2019 Basketball World Cup in China. The team reunited after a dozen called up and some who had committed to play at the end said not always. The result was seventh place, the worst men’s basketball has ever had in a major international competition.

This campus is different. He has a MVP in the NBA Finals, Kevin Durant. Also to players with NBA championship rings like Durant, to say Draymond Green and Kevin Love, and the list will increase when the NBA final concludes, since three Olympians dispute the series for the title between Milwaukee and Phoenix.

“They are great players in good faith, so they are not here to develop their individual game,” said Popovich. “They are here to mate, become a team, fall in love as soon as possible, and love it as much as foreign ensembles.”

The players arrived in Las Vegas on Monday, were taken to their hotel to be settled in and had their first coronavirus test. They then attended a team meeting in the evening. Nine of the 12 members of the Olympic team arrived in Las Vegas, except for three, to say Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, of the Bucks, and Devin Booker, of the Suns, because they are contesting the NBA final.

Popovich received them warmly and they began to talk about the challenge that awaits the US team.

“We know what to do,” said pivot Bam Adebayo.

Practice began Tuesday and will continue through the weekend. The United States plays its first international friendly against Nigeria on Saturday, and the players will spend the next few weeks together, exactly Popovich’s wish.