MANILA, Philippines — China coach Sasa Djordevic remains patient with NBA veteran Kyle Anderson, who also goes by his Chinese name Li Kaier, after a scoreless Fiba World Cup 2023 debut in their 105-63 blowout loss to Serbia on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Anderson, who obtained Chinese citizenship last month, missed all of his nine shots and only chipped in four rebounds and four assists and was a minus 35 in 25 minutes of action against the Bogdan Bogdanovic-led Serbia.
Despite Anderson’s underwhelming debut, Djordevic admitted that the Minnesota Timberwolves forward was hounded by the Serbians’ airtight defense.
“I don’t like to talk personally unless someone had a really great game and I can put emphasis on that and really put him in a great spotlight. He was inside our game, they found every time good traps on him and good situations defensively. He tried to find some open shots, it didn’t go in, some easy layups of course to keep him going,” Djordevic, who hails from Serbia, said in the postgame press conference after the 105-63 loss to the Serbs.
But Djordevic is keeping his faith in Anderson, expecting him to bounce back from such a disappointing debut.
“That’s one game. For him also, it’s his first time to play teams like this, first time in the World Cup. Everything needs time. We’re just patient. Head up, we know what we have to do. He knows what he has to do,” he said.
Bogdanovic, who led the way for Serbia with 14 points, said Anderson is still adjusting to the Fiba play.
“Tough game for him, but for sure he’s trying to adjust. This is his first tournament, so I know how it is when you’re playing a different game. He will need time to adjust,” said the Serbian skipper and Atlanta Hawks shooting guard.
Like Bogdanovic, his teammate Svetislav Pesic still lauded Anderson, believing China’s naturalized star will find his groove as the tournament goes on.
“Excellent player, very smart player. For him, it’s a new situation. First time to play FIBA basketball. The gaps on the court in FIBA basketball are smaller than the NBA. Like everybody knows, he’s one player who for his size is excellent at ball handling. Good eyes, he’s not a scorer. He’s like a second point guard,” Pesic said. “I think from day to day, he will find his rhythm to work out and play our FIBA basketball.”
Anderson and China seek to rebound against South Sudan on Monday at the Big Dome before facing Puerto Rico in their last Group B game on Wednesday.
China is also vying to emerge as the best Asian team of the tournament for an outright berth in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
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