US NBA squad off to Australia before making last cuts

Los Angeles (AFP) –


United States coach Gregg Popovich has decided to take 14 NBA players to Australia for workouts before the Basketball World Cup in China, knowing only 12 will make the final roster.

The Americans will try to capture a third consecutive World Cup crown next month with a lineup that lacks many of the league's superstars but boasts top young talent guided by the veteran San Antonio Spurs mastermind.

After the weekend trek to Australia, the US squad will have more time to analyze talent and chemistry while players can make a final case to be included on the World Cup squad.

"It seemed like the right thing to do," Popovich said.

It's also a safeguard against injuries as US guard Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics missed Friday's 90-81 exhibition triumph over Spain at Anaheim with a calf strain.

"The wins and losses are pretty unimportant at this time," Popovich said. "It's more about getting better, getting together, a group learning to execute together."

Sacramento's Harrison Barnes, a member of the 2016 Rio Olympic gold medal squad, and Boston's Kemba Walker, the only one of 11 US players voted onto one of the three All-NBA third team this past season on the roster, are among those joining Smart on the trip to Australia.

The other squad members are Boston's Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum; Milwaukee's Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton; Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox, Brooklyn's Joe Harris, Utah's Donovan Mitchell, Indiana's Myles Turner, Denver's Mason Plumlee, San Antonio's Derrick White and Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Americans will work August 19-24 in Melbourne, with exhibition games there against Australia on Thursday and Saturday, then work August 25-28 at Sydney with an August 26 matchup there against Canada.