MANILA, Philippines — When Paolo Banchero got off the bus Tuesday morning at the team hotel in Manila, he was cradling a FIBA basketball, which had been his carry-on for the 10-hour flight from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The softer but bouncier ball frustrates many NBA players, and like a running back trying to stop fumbles, Banchero was trying to spend some extra time with the rock.
The Orlando Magic star has been putting in extra shooting work after practice with Chip Engelland, Team USA’s shooting coach, and also working with the Oklahoma City Thunder assistant before games. He was quite proud that he made his first two 3-pointers with Team USA in the third quarter in Saturday’s win against New Zealand. But he was probably more relieved he made 3-of-5 free throws in his 21-point performance off the bench. The ball has been bothering him from the line, where he was 2-of-10 in the warmup games.
Coach Steve Kerr is clearly a fan of Banchero and has given him a big role as a backup center who initiates the offense on rebounds. It’s the role Draymond Green plays with Kerr’s Golden State Warriors. And Banchero has backed up Kerr’s faith and earned more minutes, which led to Saturday’s offensive explosion.
More takeaways from Team USA’s win against New Zealand:
• Speaking of playing roles, Brandon Ingram had a mold in sight when he joined Team USA. He wanted to be in the Carmelo Anthony/Kevin Durant role, a stretch 4 who crushes slower defenders and is a scoring hub. Ingram should be one of the team’s stars, a veteran scoring specialist with big-game experience.
But it’s not happening.
Ingram has really struggled during his Team USA experience. He averaged 7.8 points and shot just 42% in the warmup games, while the team shot 56% overall. Ingram was 1-of-4 against New Zealand and his timing looked off. He was sometimes late throwing passes, misjudged scoring opportunities and was ineffective on defense.
Ingram has said having the ball in his hands less than he is used to with the New Orleans Pelicans has been an adjustment. He is used to being the hub of the offense, not a gunner waiting for a turn as Team USA might need. He studied some game tape of Anthony and Durant looking for a road map, but he doesn’t look comfortable at all.
There’s still time for Ingram, but Kerr has been winnowing his minutes and it’s understandable.
They move the ball, they work hard on defense, they play smart and quick without rushing and they make good decisions. Reaves is a plus-34 in the past two games, which the U.S. won by a combined 28 points. Most of his minutes have been with Haliburton, who is plus-18.
Haliburton is 11-of-16 shooting in his past three games with 10 rebounds and six steals. Reaves is 12-of-19 with five steals.