Coach Gregg Popovich pulled a bit of a surprise in Shanghai and went small as the US knocked off the Czech Republic by 21, 88-67.
We talked earlier about how some players might improve their reputation and market value in China, not that that should be the motivation for going. Nonetheless, Donovan Mitchell may be doing just that.
Despite his youth, Popovich recognizes his leadership qualities and wants him to have a major influence on the team.
So far, so good on that front. Mitchell led the US with 16 points. Harrison Barnes had 14 while Kemba Walker added 13 and Jayson Tatum 10.
Big men Mason Plumlee and Brook Lopez didn’t have much of an impact in this one.
Interestingly, the Czechs got 14 free throw attempts to just six for the US and if we learned anything at all from Billy Packer that means THE CZECHS ARE GETTING ALL OF THE CALLS.
The US plays Turkey on Tuesday and Turkey Tuesday is something LeBron James might try to copyright, so watch for that, and then Japan on Wednesday.
The Turks have had good basketball for years but we really like how the Japanese looked in the last Olympics. If that team is mostly intact, they could be the most fun, spirited team in Shanghai.