MANILA, Philippines — Steve Kerr could not be performing better in his role as national team coach and spokesperson for USA Basketball, not only preparing and motivating the roster well but also handling all the media demands with patience and smiles.
“I think we gonna win,” Edwards said when he was asked about playing undefeated Lithuania in the second round of the World Cup. “We’re undefeated also. I think we have a great chance to win. We got great coaching staff, we got great players. And our confidence is at all times, we not really worried about those guys.”
First, the U.S. is playing Montenegro and Chicago Bulls star Nikola Vucevic on Friday and then will play Lithuania on Sunday. Secondly, Edwards wasn’t trying to make some sort of guarantee, though it might read that way. He was trying to answer a question, that was a little unclear, with clarity.
Earlier in the postgame interview, Edwards had trouble understanding the wording of a Spanish reporter and had to have it repeated several times. Finally he just said: “I always keep it simple and short. For me it’s just put the ball in the basket and get a stop.”
“That’s why we love him,” Kerr said with a laugh.
Edwards has largely been spectacular and his attitude is refreshing and entertaining in a world where some star players avoid being colorful for fear of offending various parties.
It’s easy to focus on Edwards’ offense, he has the skills and the talent to lead the NBA in scoring someday. But it’s his defense that has excited the Team USA coaching staff.
“The pressure he puts on the ball, the way he stays in front, it really can confuse an offense and take them out of their system and their stuff,” Kerr said.
More takeaways from Team USA’s win against Jordan:
• There might be some focus on how Brandon Ingram was taken out of the starting lineup. It was done in part because of poor play, but this also was Kerr helping Ingram.
Ingram is used to being at the center of the offense, so not being able to handle the ball much is hard for him. He studied tape on Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant when they played with Team USA to see how he might fit but he hasn’t found his spot yet.
Putting Ingram with the second unit was an attempt to give him space to play that way. And he did with five assists in 15 minutes against Jordan. Expect him to stay on the second team throughout the World Cup. It might mean a little less ballhandling for Austin Reaves and Tyrese Haliburton but those guys are team-first players who are doing their best work at the defensive end.
• Jordan had never played Team USA before in any event and that made this game special, even if the Middle Eastern country never stood a chance. Coach Wesam Al-Sous made this very clear after the game and with his game plan.
“We wanted to give minutes to everybody because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play against the U.S.,” Al-Sous said. “We tried our best but it was a really good experience for me and the guys.”