Team USA’s assistant coach Steve Kerr stopped short of calling Saturday’s defeat to Australia ‘a loss we had to have’, but said it would have a positive effect on the team before the World Cup begins next week.
“Tomorrow night’s game will probably give you a better indication of how we respond – but in general, you learn more from losing than winning, I’ve always believed. It forces you to look at your weaknesses,” Kerr said.
Also the coach of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA, Kerr is well experienced with being the team to beat, especially when the mighty Americans hadn’t lost since 2006.
“It’s different, being the American team. It’s kind of a strange feeling because these are exhibition games and in the NBA you don’t care if you win exhibition game,” he said.
“This was a big deal for the Aussies, and a big deal for American basketball. But the fact is this is a young team that needs to grow and there will be growing pains – but we’re learning quickly. I think you’ll see a much better team tomorrow.”
He outlined the team’s work off the ball as being the biggest issue on Saturday.
“The biggest takeaway was our defence, the lack of it. We had a 10-point lead in the second half and watching the tap, we had too many lackadaisical defensive possessions,” he said.
The team will leave Sydney for Shanghai on Wednesday, ahead of their first group stage game on Sunday against the Czech Republic.
Kerr identified the “usual suspects” of Serbia, Australia, Turkey and Spain as America’s biggest obstacles to a World Cup triumph.
But does he think a World Cup can ever compare with an Olympic gold?
“No,” he said with a laugh.
For young star Donovan Mitchell, his earliest memory of the Dream Team was at the 2000 Olympics – more specifically, Vince Carter’s thunderous dunk over Frenchman Frederic Weis.
“For me, this is an amazing experience. A lot of guys who did pull out have played in this [before], I never got the opportunity in high school or college,” he said.
He said he’d talked legends such as Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, who told him what a great experience it would be.
“Winning a gold medal is something I really want to be able to do,” he said.
But was the team dwelling on that loss to Australia?
“Not at all,” Mitchell said.
”To be honest, everybody else makes a bigger deal of it than we are. The main thing we learned is it’s a dogfight. These teams have played with each other since they were much younger, we have three or four weeks under our belt.”
Despite slightly different rules and quarter times for games in internationals compared with the NBA, Mitchell said the team would make no excuses if they didn’t bring home the gold in China.
“At the end of the day, it’s basketball. It’s a little different but the schemes are the same, the objective is the same.”