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MANILA, Philippines – There’s no shortage of confidence in the favored USA squad.
As electric guard Anthony Edwards puts it, he’s keeping things “simple and short” along with his elite all-NBA crew that cruised to a 3-0 sweep in the FIBA World Cup first round.
So, it’s really no surprise that Edwards thinks it won’t be any different when USA battles Montenegro and Lithuania in the second round after the Americans posted an average winning margin of 34.3 points in their disposal of New Zealand, Greece, and Jordan.
“I think we’re gonna win,” said Edwards. “I think we have a great chance of winning – we have a great coaching staff, we have great players. Our confidence is at an all-time high, so we’re not really worried about those guys.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves star and former top draft pick continues to impress on the international stage, averaging a team-best 16.3 points and even making it sound like it’s all just muscle memory.
“I always keep it simple and short. For me, it’s just put the ball in the basket and get a stop,” said the 22-year-old Edwards, drawing laughs from the media.
“That’s why we love him. That’s all we need from him,” USA coach Steve Kerr quipped.
USA kicks off its second-round bid at 4:40 pm on Friday, September 1, against Montenegro, which finished with a 2-1 record in Group D behind Chicago Bulls star Nikola Vucevic.
The Americans take the floor again at 8:40 pm on Sunday, September 3, against a Lithuania side that topped Group D at 3-0, with New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas at the helm.
Kerr, who noted his team’s adjustment from NBA to FIBA play, said his players are getting the hang of it as he also fielded a new starting combination of Edwards, Mikal Bridges, Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson, and Jaren Jackson Jr. against Jordan on Wednesday night, August 30.
“We didn’t get off to good starts in the last couple of games. So it felt good to jump right out and grab that early lead,” said Kerr.
“One of the advantages we have is we have great perimeter defenders. These guys are right up there at the top… it really can confuse the defense and take them out of their system and stuff. I thought that was a great part of their game.”
“I love the game of basketball. It’s fun for me, man,” added Edwards. “I go out there and do what I love. I put in the work everyday so there’s no pressure at all.”
But the 6-foot-4 high-flyer also noted the importance of chemistry in the young USA crew composed mostly of international first-timers.
“Some nights I’m not gonna have it,” said Edwards. “Guys like Tyrese (Haliburton), Austin (Reaves), Jalen Brunson – everybody, all 12 of us – we put the ball in the hoop so we all just feed off one another and keep it going. That’s super important that we got depth.” – Rappler.com