LAS VEGAS, Nevada – The USA Basketball Men's National Team wrapped up two days of minicamp Friday in Las Vegas. Head coach Gregg Popovich showed the players and coaching staff his funny side along with his no-nonsense approach.
While interviewing Rockets guard James Harden Friday, we noticed a toy car sitting on the seat next to him, so we asked him about it.
"I won it yesterday (Thursday) during a shooting game. Pop said he was going to get us all cars, so I thought he was talking about an actual car. He got us a toy car," Harden answered with a smile.
Team USA guard James Harden earned a brand new car for winning a shooting contest. As motivation Pop told the players he'd buy them cars and he delivered with Hot Wheels. That's a sweet ride. #KSATsports pic.twitter.com/xuqx8PIj4h— Larry Ramirez (@LRam2) July 27, 2018
"I did," Popovich said when asked about buying Harden a car. "We ran some drills and I told the winners, there were about seven winners, I told the winners they were going to get a car, I'd buy them a car. I had to follow through, so I bought them cars."
But not just any car 1:64 scale toy cars, the size of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. Prankster Pop pulled a fast one on his guys.
"Yeah, I brought the bag and let them see. They laughed, they all laughed, they thought it was funny. Just screwing with them."
Team USA assistant coach and former Spurs assistant coach Mike Brown knows all about Pop's funny side. The toy cars were a hit.
"Everybody just kind of fell out," Brown said. "They're like hey, this is Pop, and you can't expect to figure out what he's going to do on a day-to-day basis because there's something new almost every day. He throws a curveball in your game, you just kind of roll with it, and enjoy being around him."
But Popovich also showed his tough side. On Friday, he punished the guys for missing free throws by making them do push-ups or suicide runs.
"Free throws are important, and any time you can put pressure on somebody in a practice situation, I think it helps," Pop said. "You go up there, you don't want to miss because it causes pain for everybody else. There's a little bit of pressure there and that's what you saw. It's good stuff, it's a nice little technique."
When asked if players resent it, Popovich said, "I don't care."
Team USA is in for a fun ride (pun intended) with Popovich calling the shots.