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Team USA coach Gregg Popovich stressing chemistry during preparation for FIBA World Cup

Gregg Popovich

Team USA arrived in Melbourne, Australia after the first exhibition game since their customary White vs. Blue scrimmage in Las Vegas, besting Spain 90-81 on Friday. Head coach Gregg Popovich got to work with his team immediately, hoping his team would get a good meal, rest and shake out the jet lag on the court as soon as possible as the 2019 FIBA World Cup approaches.

The longtime NBA coach is stressing chemistry among players — the major point of disadvantage for USA Basketball coming into the FIBA World Cup, as the eventual 12-man team will take on rosters that have played together for years:

“As we all know in team sports, when you feel responsible, when you care about somebody, when you love somebody, you have empathy for somebody, things go better,” Popovich explained, according to ESPN’s Kane Pitman. “Going to dinner and spending time off the court, just learning about them and their families. We don’t know their wives and girlfriends and children like we do our own teams back in the NBA so it’s a slow process, but we try to get a little more familiar every day.”

Pop doesn’t have the luxury of letting this chemistry happen organically, so in an era of technology and short attention spans, he has done his best to streamline that process during these first few weeks by taking away some of the major distractions:

“We go to dinner without phones and people actually talk to each other, ask questions and learn about how each other grew up and that sort of thing,” said Popovich. “Because it’s a brand-new basketball team you have to start, not skip steps, and try to learn about people, and you get as far as you can in a short period of time.”

The Americans have a six-week window to bring their chemistry to the ultimate fruition, a gold medal. They have the most talent out of the 32 squads participating in this tournament, but only the right chemistry level could cement them as the winners of this sought-after quest.