Sunday, October 1 2023

Back in July, when Team USA announced the list of players who would travel to Asia to compete in the FIBA World Cup, everyone expected Brandon Ingram to be among the most important players for this squad. However, it seems that he isn’t being able to deliver as a starter, and players from the bench are having a stronger impact on the matches.

For example, during the first five exhibition matches before the start of the international competition, the Pelicans star only averaged 7.8 points per contest despite being in the starting lineup. This past Saturday, as Team USA faced New Zealand in the World Cup opener, he only dropped in two points.

As the Americans have won all six of their displays, he can’t help but understand that he’s been underperforming, and has expressed his desire to find a way to be more effective for the team.

“This is totally different than what I am used to,” Ingram told the press this weekend. “The team is winning right now, so I can’t be selfish thinking about myself. But it’s a little frustrating right now for me, and I’m just trying to figure out ways I can be effective.”

Even though it is not common to hear NBA players make public their frustrations, this is part of what playing for Team USA means. The American squad is where the best players from all the league franchises come together for the nation’s cause, which means that athletes who are used to being stars, might not find the same role here.

Head coach Steve Kerr recognizes that the New Orleans player has been struggling to find his best version in the past weeks, but is convinced that this will eventually change for him.

“Nothing has really gone his way,” the trainer said. “He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, but I think that’ll change. I think his time is coming. He’s just gotta stay with it. The thing I’ve learned with FIBA is every night belongs to someone new.”

Austin Reaves led Team USA to 99-72 victory in FIBA World Cup opener against New Zealand, while Paolo Banchero shined from the bench

By the end of the match, Austin Reaves had been consistent on all sides of the court, dropping 12 points, handing out 6 assists and stealing the ball three times. However, his most important asset was his plus/minus, producing a plus-19 effect on the flow of the game.

“I was one of those kids watching the World Cup [and] the Olympics, so every day I wake up and cherish those moments,” the athlete said. “I’m from a super small town, and not a lot of people expected me to be here representing our country. So for the [crowds] to accept me the way that they accept me, it means a lot to me.”

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Other players who deserve recognition for their exhibitions this weekend were Magic foward Paolo Banchero, who finished with 21 points, and Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton, who was plus-13 with 10 points. Both athletes came off the bench and saved the Team USA starters from an unimpressive first quarter.

“I think those are my first 3s I’ve hit since I’ve been playing with the team,” Banchero said as he made his first six shots this Saturday. “We pride ourselves on, when we come in, pushing the pace, and if we’re starting flat, we got to be able to pick it up.”

Source: Basketball Insider


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