As Team USA gears up for the FIBA World Cup, head coach Steve Kerr faces a difficult task – determining who will comprise his starting lineup for the tournament. Kerr understands that this decision is not one that can be made hastily. With a roster full of NBA starters and talented players, he acknowledges that it will take time for the lineup to solidify. While the coaching staff analyzes tape and experiments with different combinations, Kerr knows that the final lineup will reveal itself naturally as the team progresses in training camp.
Kerr acknowledges the unique challenge posed by the FIBA World Cup, as compared to the NBA where there are typically only 12 starters across the league. In FIBA competitions, every player is a starter, which adds an extra layer of complexity to the decision-making process. However, Kerr emphasizes that external factors, such as contracts and trades, do not come into play during the tournament. Each player’s commitment is solely to Team USA for the six weeks of the competition. Kerr draws on previous experiences with the 2021 Olympics and the 2019 World Cup, where the team displayed great buy-in, effort, energy, and intensity. He hopes to replicate this level of dedication in the upcoming tournament.
The Lack of Experience
Compounding Kerr’s challenge is the lack of experience within the selected group. While many of the players have represented Team USA at various levels, none of them have participated at the senior national level before. This means that there will be a significant amount of experimentation in the upcoming weeks as the team prepares for the tournament. The training camp in Las Vegas, which includes four days of practice and a scrimmage against Puerto Rico, will be crucial in identifying player strengths and evaluating how they work together on the court.
The team’s journey will then take them to Malaga, Spain, followed by Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and finally, Manila, Philippines, where the tournament will be held. Kerr remains tight-lipped about his lineup decisions, deliberately dividing the roster into balanced teams during practice. By strategically assigning players to different teams, he aims to observe how they perform in different lineups.
Adapting to FIBA Rules
In addition to selecting the right players for the lineup, Kerr confronts the challenge of acquainting his team with the nuances of FIBA basketball. FIBA rules differ significantly from the NBA, requiring players and coaches to adjust their strategies accordingly. One particular area that Kerr is focusing on is FIBA’s emphasis on baseline out-of-bounds plays, a rule he became familiar with during his time under Gregg Popovich with Team USA.
In FIBA competitions, the ball is taken out of bounds underneath the basket more frequently compared to the NBA, where it usually occurs on the sideline. This discrepancy translates into a higher number of baseline out-of-bounds plays each game. Kerr recognizes the importance of executing these plays effectively, both offensively and defensively, as they can significantly impact the outcome of a game. He recalls a previous loss to France in the Olympics, where their success on out-of-bounds plays in the second half proved costly. Taking this experience into account, Kerr wants his team to be well-prepared and focused on executing these specific plays throughout the tournament.
Keeping it Simple
Given the limited time between now and the conclusion of the tournament on September 10th, Kerr understands the need for a simplified structure. With only six weeks at their disposal, the team cannot afford to get caught up in complexity. Kerr’s emphasis on simplicity aligns with the nature of USA Basketball, where efficiency and quick adjustments are critical. Reflecting on his previous coaching experiences with Team USA, Kerr aims to build upon both the positive and negative aspects to enhance efficiency and develop a clear understanding of the timeline ahead.
Constructing Team USA’s lineup for the FIBA World Cup poses several challenges for Steve Kerr and his coaching staff. The abundance of NBA starters on the roster requires careful consideration, as the coaching staff experiments with different combinations. The lack of senior national level experience among the players necessitates ample exploration during the training camp to identify the most effective lineups. Additionally, the team must adapt to FIBA rules, particularly the nuances of baseline out-of-bounds plays. Despite these challenges, Coach Kerr recognizes the value of simplicity and efficiency in maximizing Team USA’s performance. With careful planning and focused execution, the team aims to live up to the high expectations set for them in the upcoming tournament.