Generations of Filipino hoop fans need no introduction about Team USA coach Steve Kerr, known for winning championships as a player with Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan and as the man giving out instructions to Stephen Curry.
And experiencing how basketball-crazy this nation is has made Kerr and the rest of the American side eager to bring back to the Fiba World Cup title and appreciate the atmosphere around them.
“It’s fun to be here,” the Golden State Warriors mentor said before a number of reporters after the United States wrapped up its first practice on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“I’ve known about Filipinos’ passion for basketball for a long time,” Kerr continued, mentioning in passing USA assistant and former Northern Consolidated player Chip Engelland. “I’m very aware of the popularity of the game and it’s finally wonderful to come here for the first time.”
Team USA may not have the big stars many had hoped for, but they are names that are quite familiar to local cage fans.
Even the coaches are known as well, outside of Filipino-American Erik Spoelstra who is here as an assistant. Tyrone Lue is currently calling the shots for the Los Angeles Clippers, but spent time playing with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal with the Los Angeles Lakers and Jordan with the Washington Wizards.
Lue also steered the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2016 NBA title, beating Kerr and the Warriors despite being down 3-1.
The session was used to help Team USA get familiar with the venue. The Americans open the campaign on Saturday against New Zealand.
“Very helpful,” said Kerr. “And I think the guys like to see the arena and feel the hoops, see the backdrop so it’s good to come over here.”
Before practice concluded, some players opted to practice their shots, namely New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson hitting some free throws and Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards knocking down a halfcourt shot.
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