Both representatives made themselves available following USA Basketball’s announcement this morning on their squad for the 2019 FIBA World Cup as well as the games against the Boomers.
“I’m still a little stunned at the size of the arena we’ll be playing in and the amount of spectators that will be there in Melbourne,” said USA Basketball head coach, Gregg Popovich.
“I think it shows how much Australia loves its basketball and how talented they are. I’m anxious about coming to Australia and enjoying the country- I’ve never been before and it’s a real honour to be involved in these games.”
USA Basketball Chairman and National Team Managing Director, Jerry Colangelo believes the games will provide the USA with the perfection preparation leading into the World Cup where they are the two-time defending Champions.
“We’re very excited to be coming over to Australia,” said Colagenlo.
“Every game we’ve ever played against [the Boomers] has been tough, you know you’re in for a tough night when you go up against Australians so we’ll be ready.”
USA Basketball’s squad features seven 2019 NBA All-Stars in Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Khris Middleton and Kemba Walker.
Eighteen of the 20 players boast prior USA Basketball experience and the group also includes five players who are Olympic gold medalists in Harrison Barnes, Kevin Love, Davis, Harden and Lowry while Davis, Harden, Love, Andre Drummond and Eric Gordon are FIBA World Cup Champions.
“The roster has been put together covering the bases in terms of experience, youth, size, quickness and shooting,” said Colangelo.
“Everyone is on the roster for a reason, we’re very pleased with the depth that we have.”
Currently in the middle of the NBA Finals, there is time for USA Basketball to make changes to the roster before they head to their Las Vegas training camp between August 5-9.
“The selection of a roster is fluid,” said Colangelo.
“There could be additions or deletions due to injuries, contracts or other personal things. We do have flexibility and we are blessed by having such a deep roster.”
In comparision, the Boomers squad includes nine NBA players in Andrew Bogut, Aron Baynes, Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Mitch Creek, Ben Simmons and Jonah Bolden and Matthew Dellavedova and Deng Adel.
Bogut, Baynes, Mills, Ingles, Dellavedova, Chris Goulding and Brock Motum also represented the Boomers at the Rio Olympics while Nick Kay, Mitch McCarron and Nathan Sobey competed in ten of the 12 FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
“[The Boomers] are obviously a talented group,” said Popovich.
“They play together a lot and their natural inclination for the game is very obvious so I expect Australia to be a major factor at the World Cup. I’ve already been watching film of the teams we’ll compete against and [the Boomers] move and read each other better than most.”
Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, was also thrilled with the inclusion of San Antonio’s longest current tenured player in Mills as well as rising superstar, Ben Simmons.
“It will be a little strange to play against Patty but the world of basketball has become so international that it’s to be expected.
“Patty has been a brilliant player and a wonderful human being in our program and he’s been as important for Australia.
“I think it’s fantastic that Ben is playing as well. The better the competition, the better the games and the more you value winning.”
With a record number of Australians competing in the NBA this season and the relationship between Basketball Australia and USA Basketball continuing to develop, Popovich knows that the Boomers vs. USA games in Melbourne are only the beginning.
“There are already a dozen Australian guys playing in the NBA and I don’t see that number stopping.
“I’m so impressed by the way every Australian plays. It’s the way, as a coach, you want to see everyone play. That’s what makes Australia such a tough opponent and you have to be prepared for that.
“It’s a thrill to know basketball has reached this point internationally and it will be a honour to play in front of that many people. It will be a honour for the whole team.”
The Australian Boomers warm-up schedule ahead of the 2019 FIBA World Cup:
August 16: Boomers vs. Canada Basketball at RAC Arena in Perth. Tickets available via Ticketek
August 17: Boomers vs. Canada Basketball at RAC Arena in Perth. Tickets available via Ticketek
August 22: Boomers vs. USA Basketball at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne. Tickets available via Ticketmaster
August 24: Boomers vs. USA Basketball at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne. Tickets available via Ticketmaster