After flying from Sydney, Australia to Shanghai, China on Thursday the two-time defending World Cup champion U.S. men’s basketball team will play three games starting on Sunday. They had a few hours of rest and relaxation, to recover from the jet lag, before attending their first practice later in the afternoon.
“The challenges begin” U.S. coach Greg Popovich said.
Players said that arriving in China is like a whole new atmosphere for the team.
“It’s kicked in,” said Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics. “The next game that we play, it’s the real thing”. We’re focused, we’re locked in and we’re ready to play.”
“I think we’re good” said Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. “I think we’re doing well. We got here and guy’s energy in practice was great, guys were sharp.”
The U.S. team went 3-1 on their pre-World Cup warmup tour. They beat Spain and Canada and split a pair against Australia. The loss to Australia broke a 78-game winning streak, for the senior national team against major competition, going all the way back to 2006.
They will open the competition on Sunday against the Czech Republic and then have games every other day after that. “We don’t take anybody lightly” said Popovich.
“We have a great team of guys. Very unselfish group. We all have the same goal in mind. A lot of young guys, so we have a lot of guys who are learning on the fly. We don’t have a problem being a team. Our guys have come together really quick” Said Brook Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks.