Team USA Gets Off To A flying Start

Photo by Michael C. Floch

LAS VEGAS,NV– It was a star spangled blowout at the Team USA Showcase, with the United States men flexing their muscle on route to a 117-76 victory over Puerto Rico at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

It was a tuneup for the upcoming 2023 FIBA World Cup, as our young stars like Anthony Edwards, Brandon Ingram and Austin Reaves stepped up in the second half. In 2019, the Americans finished a deflating seventh place in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

The starting five for the USA was Brunson, Edwards, Ingram, Bridges, and Jackson Jr.

Team USA has four more exhibition games. First, they travel to Malaga, Spain, for bigger tests again Luka Dončić and Slovenia, and then a well-seasoned Spanish side. After that, USA Basketball heads to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for games to face Greece (without Giannis Antetokounmpo) then Germany.

Then the USA heads off to Manilla for the start of the World Cup where it will open against New Zealand on Aug. 26. The USA will also play Greece and Jordan in the group stages of the World Cup.

At the World Cup starting Aug. 25, there are 32 teams divided into eight groups of four, with the top two teams from each group advance to the 16-team, tournament-style knockout round. The USA is in Group C with Greece (without Giannis Antetokounmpo), New Zealand and Jordan.

Photo by Michael C. Floch

Judging by the crowds decible shattering applause, Los Angeles Laker Austin Reaves was by far the fan favorite. After checking into the game, he knocked down consecutive three pointers-which means the undrafted kid out of Oklahoma is caught up in REAVES-mania. Postgame, hundreds of fans in the stands lined up for an autograph as Reaves was headed to the locker room. Being the Class Act, and all around good guy he signed jerseys and Laker gear untill his hand was sore.

Team USA went on a 20-0 second-half run to pull away and dominate Puerto Rico 117-74 in a game played in Las Vegas (where the USA just wrapped up training camp). In a balanced attack where seven players scored in double figures, Anthony Edwards and Cam Johnson led the way with 15 points each.

Point guard Jalen Brunson is a natural born leader. Orchestraiting the offense, constantly making the correct pass abd shooting only when necessary. A true throwback to the position, and more importantly, his steely approach will help Team USA hopefully capture the FIBA World Cup. A feat which hasn’t occured since 2014.

“It took us a while to get going, but when we’re playing the defensive side of the ball and getting stops and turnovers and running, it’s pretty fun for us,” said Jalen Brunson.

Mikal Bridges scored 14 points, Jaren Jackson Jr. added 12, and Bobby Portis and Brandon Ingram scored 11 a piece for the USA.

Jaren Jackson Jr. is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and FI360 briefly caught up with the charming big man of the Memphis Grizzlies. I asked him how many shots he was going to block? He turned around, seen me in my wheelchair and bumped his fist to my shoe. His answer: “A Bunch!”