- Born in Melbourne, Australia…
- Holds an Australian passport…
- Travelled to Australia last year to get acquainted with the thousands of Australian fans he’s gained over the last few years…
- Flirted with the idea of playing for the Australian National Team & rumor has it, made an incognito trip out to Australia prior to heading to Duke to explore this opportunity…
- Doesn’t know or seem to care about the current Australian World Cup team.
Yep. That seems to be the case.
Speaking to the media after today’s Team USA training session, Kyrie Irving was asked by Nick Metallinos of starting5online.com about his thoughts on the Australian team heading into the World Cup.
“Honestly, I don’t know who’s on the team. No disrespect to Australia and their team, but I’m worried about our team and what we can do to win this World Cup.”
Someone in the media scrum quickly mentioned to Kyrie that his own Cavaliers team-mate Matthew Dellavedova was on the Boomers squad…
“Yeah, I know. But I ain’t checking for Australia.”
hashtag shots fired.
There’s a few things that I take from this…
#1 As an Australian member of the NBA media, the three times that I’ve been lucky enough to speak to Kyrie, he’s been very warming towards Australia. He’s stated on occasions that he still refers to Melbourne as “my hometown” & wants to come back Down Under as often as possible… Even as early as next off-season. So, for him to take a small shot at the Australian National Team, to a fellow Australian media member, really surprises me.
#2 Shout-out to Charles Barkey & Angola.
#3 To me, this basically sums up how the USA have approached this World Cup & is the tip of the iceberg on an even bigger issue that I’ve seen with this USA team… Their lack of preparation heading into the World Cup.
After the embarrassment of 2004, USA Basketball had pulled together a program to ensure that moving forward, they were perennial gold medallists. They became respectful of the FIBA game. Especially the nations that were at the top of the tree; Argentina & Spain. Whilst they still deserve the right to be favourites to bring home the gold next month, their World Cup preparation so far has been exactly the opposite of what it has been in previous tournaments since 2004.
We’re now 8 days out from opening day & Team USA still hasn’t finalised their squad. They’ve had some speed humps along the way including Paul George’s horrible injury & Kevin Durant pulling out of the competition.
These two incidents aside, from an outsider looking in, their preparation seems like Team USA aren’t respecting the FIBA game as much as they have in previous tournaments.
They have 4 warm-up games scheduled before the tournament begins. Brazil, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico & Slovenia. To me, this schedule doesn’t exactly look like the best preparation for a FIBA tournament. If the USA were treating this tournament seriously, they would have looked at organising games against more European competition.
Teams that they could potentially face in the medal rounds of the competition include Spain, France & Lithuania. The USA need to accustom themselves with their particular styles & systems heading into the World Cup. Their games against Brazil in Chicago plus Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico in New York, don’t help them prepare for the games that matter. Slovenia does, but it’s only one game against a European system. The South American teams they are facing’s systems look much more like an NBA type system than a Euro system & doesn’t allow the NBA stars on Team USA to do too far out of their comfort zone.
Before the 2012 Olympics, Team USA travelled to Europe early to play exhibition games in France, Spain & Great Britain before heading to London. A similar schedule this time, especially seeing there’s a noticeable talent drain since the Olympics, was exactly what the USA needed.
They are coming into this tournament under-prepared & it’s comments like Kyrie’s one about Australia… A team they SHOULD be “checking” seeing as there is a good chance they’ll face them in either an elimination game in either the quarter or semi finals shows how the USA have really approached this tournament the wrong way.
Kyrie & the USA should be worried about other teams in the tournament. Because gone are the days where the USA only has to worry about themselves. Teams who the USA will most likely have to go through on their way to the Gold Medal potentially including the likes Australia, Lithuania, Turkey, France & Spain are already beginning their preparation for this inevitable match-up. If 2004 taught the USA anything, it’s never get complacent. These are professional outfits who are built to win in the FIBA game. Show them a lack of respect & there’s a chance you’ll come up short where it matters… That gold medal.