Olympics not yet the focus as Steve Kerr, Team USA hellbent on Fiba World Cup gold


Team USA coach Steve Kerr. -FIBA PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines-The United States may have secured its spot in next year’s Olympics, but coach Steve Kerr is not thinking about that just yet.

While the Americans made sure they will be playing on another grand basketball stage next year, Kerr would like to focus on the current challenge of leading his team to the Fiba World Cup championship despite a less star-studded, NBA-filled roster.

The loss to Lithuania on Sunday night didn’t put a dent in Team USA’s title bid at this point in the tournament, but it did expose flaws heading into the knockout phase starting Tuesday at Mall of Asia Arena.

“We’re fortunate that the loss doesn’t hurt us in terms of our goal, which is to win the gold medal,” said Kerr after the 110-104 loss to Lithuania that dropped the Americans to no. 2 after the group stage and set up a face-off against Italy from the other group playing in Manila.

“But it’s a great game for us to experience because this is Fiba you know, there’s some great teams that have continuity that understand what they’re doing that execute. And I thought Lithuania was brilliant tonight and they deserve to win.”

USA and Canada, which also advanced to the quarterfinal after a come-from-behind win over defending champion Spain, clinched all available outright Olympic spots for the Americas after Brazil, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic bombed out of contention.

While Team USA has been plagued by slow starts all throughout that competition that started last August 25, it faced a different beast in Lithuania which made all nine of its shots from the three-point area early in the game to go up by 21.

Anthony Edwards Team USA Fiba World Cup

Team USA’s Anthony Edwards. -FIBA PHOTO

Led by young star Anthony Edwards, who finished with 35 points, the Americans rallied in the second half to make it a close game down the stretch–only for the Lithuanians to have an answer to their every run and make them pay with improbable baskets off broken plays.

“It was a great basketball game. Lithuania just came out of the gates on fire. I think they made their first nine or 10 threes took it to us,” said Kerr. “I love the way our guys fought back played much better in the second half, competed like crazy and gave it a really good run, but it wasn’t enough.”

Kerr and Team USA may have achieved one thing in their trip to basketball-crazed capital Manila–where they have been getting the home crowd treatment practically every game–but they are not losing sight of what they came here for.

“It’s a good thing to not have to go through any qualifying anything further, and you don’t have to worry about anything else. But to be honest, I’m not worried about the Olympics. And you know, I’m worried about this. We want to win the World Cup. And that’s our focus,” said Kerr.

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