LAS VEGAS – Led by San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, Team USA opened 2019 FIBA World Cup training camp in Las Vegas on Monday.
A total of 17 NBA players are fighting for 12 spots. The first day of camp featured high energy, thanks to a spirited group of players.
"It's a wonderful group," Popovich said. "I thought they were very excited, very upbeat and played very well for the first day after summertime, so I was impressed with the group."
The USA Men's National Team World Cup training camp roster is made up of: De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets); Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat); Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); and Kris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks).
Those guys were all smiles and know they are playing for a greater cause.
"This is beyond playing for an NBA team," Popovich said "This is the highest level you can be, and it means so much for all of these guys down the road when they are retired from all basketball. This is the most satisfying form of putting a bunch of guys together, and then having empathy and love for each other, for them to form the kind of team they're going to have to have to beat some really good European teams."
Popovich takes over for former Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led the Americans to Olympic titles in 2008, 2012 and 2016, as well as the FIBA World Cup gold in 2010 and 2014.
Popovich understands the big shoes he's replacing.
"It's been on my mind since I got the job," Popovich said. "I got the job in 2016 and it's been on my mind every day: what I want to do and what needs to be done. It's been like thinking about two teams at the same time for that period, but Coach K did that for 12 years, so I think I can probably try to do the same."
Pop and Team USA will open FIBA World Cup play Sept. 1 versus the Czech Republic in Shanghai, China.