The United States had a narrow escape at the FIBA World Cup on Tuesday as Gregg Popovich's depleted team beat Turkey in overtime. 

After Turkey missed four consecutive free throws in the final 10 seconds, Khris Middleton made a pair from the line with 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime as USA secured a dramatic 93-92 win.

In doing so, they avoided their first loss in the preliminary rounds at a World Cup since 1998. 

USA had a five-point lead with just under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter but watched Turkey go on a 7-0 run to go up 81-79 on Ersan Ilyasova's tip-in of Cedi Osman's miss with 12.3 seconds left. 

Popovich's team went for the win on their final possession of regulation, with Middleton firing up an effort from beyond the arc. He missed, but Kemba Walker secured the rebound and got it to Jayson Tatum, who managed to draw a foul from Osman while in the act of shooting from behind the three-point line at the buzzer. 

With a chance to seal the game in his hands, Tatum made the first but missed the second and had to drain the third to send it to overtime, where the back-and-forth nature of the game continued. 

Turkey stretched out a five-point advantage to open the extra session before USA rallied to take a 91-89 lead on a Tatum layup with 1:50 to play, but Osman converted a three-pointer a minute later to put the underdogs back on top. 

After a Joe Harris miss, USA got the ball back when Walker drew a charge with 14.6 seconds to play, but Myles Turner turned it over.

Harris was called for an intentional foul, sending Dogus Balbay to the line for two. He missed both, but Turkey still had the ball, so Marcus Smart immediately fouled Osman. The Cavaliers forward missed his two shots as well, handing USA one last lifeline that Middleton was able to convert. 

The Milwaukee Bucks star led USA with 15 points while Walker added 14. Ilyasova had 23 for Turkey to lead all scorers.

The 2019 FIBA World Cup gets under way in China on Saturday.

A total of 32 teams from four confederations will battle it out across eight host cities in the space of just over two weeks.

We take a look at five talking points ahead of what should be an enthralling competition.

 

A three-peat in the offing?

The United States have won the past two editions of the World Cup and are once again the favourites for glory. No country has ever won three straight titles.

However, Team USA are without a host of their leading NBA stars and are relying heavily on a young group.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said: "A lot of guys back in 2010; KD [Kevin Durant], Russ [Westbrook], Kevin Love, all those guys were young. They made a name for themselves and really propelled themselves for future success in their careers."

The competition could prove beneficial to the Boston Celtics, with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Brown getting some extra time on court with new arrival Kemba Walker.

Booming Boomers

Australia enjoyed a huge boost ahead of the World Cup by beating Team USA for the first time with a 98-94 triumph at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.

The experienced quartet of Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles and Patty Mills will be key to their hopes of a deep run.

Mills said: "We're locked in focused on trying to create history for basketball within Australia and that's what it's all about. So, we're not satisfied, we've just got to keep working hard."

However, the Boomers lost their final warm-up match against Germany 74-64 and saw Andrew Bogut limp off in the fourth quarter.

More Nurse magic?

After leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA Championship, Nick Nurse took the reins for Canada.

He got off to a winning start against Nigeria and went on to record victories over Australia and New Zealand.

But Canada also lost warm-up matches with Nigeria, Australia and Team USA, showing they have plenty of work to do if they are to pull off a shock in China.

A 'Greek Freak' Show

Greece's best performance came in 2006, when they finished second to Spain in Japan.

This time, though, they have a once-in-a-generation talent in NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 assists during the 2018-19 regular season.

Antetokounmpo will be integral to Greece's hopes, though he sat out their final warm-up against Venezuela due to a knee problem.

If he is fit and firing, Antetokounmpo will undoubtedly make a mark on the competition.

Understrength Spain

It looks like it will be difficult for Spain to win the title for a second time.

Head coach Sergio Scariolo has selected an experienced team that is headlined by Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull.

They would undoubtedly have had a better chance had Serge Ibaka and Nikola Mirotic made themselves available, while Pau Gasol is absent due to injury.

Scariolo said: "The players that you have named [Nikola Mirotic and Serge Ibaka], at least one of the two would have been picked if they had made themselves available for selection.

"Another like Pau for example, he would have killed to be with us but unfortunately he is unavailable through injury."

Kobe Bryant expects the young players who headline the United States' roster for the FIBA World Cup to be the marquee names of the future.

Much has been made of the lack of star power in the USA squad. No players who contested the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors are involved and the sheer number of withdrawals has left the Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell as the leading light on the team.

Boston Celtics duo Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will also hope to have a big impact alongside Mitchell.

However, an exhibition defeat to Australia has served to increase scepticism around their prospects for the tournament, which starts on Saturday.

However, Bryant, who won two Olympic gold medals in his glittering career, has faith Gregg Popovich's team can deliver in China.

"We got great players. The team gets a little bit chippy about it because everybody is writing them off because we don't have the marquee names," Bryant said at the US Open on Thursday. 

"These young players that are playing on this team will be those marquee names in two or three years. They're great players in their own right. We'll be fine."

Team USA still pose a threat at the FIBA World Cup even if Kemba Walker rather than LeBron James is their star man, says former Germany star Demond Greene.

Defending champions the United States, who have five titles to their name, have seen several world superstars such as James pull out of contention for the tournament that starts on Saturday.

But Greene, who played at two World Cups, famously blocking Dwyane Wade in 2006, acknowledges players such as Walker and Khris Middleton could still have a huge impact on the finals.

"It's not their 'A-team'. I would not even say it's their 'B-team'," Greene told Omnisport. "It's a mix between 'B' and 'C-team'. Despite this, they are still dangerous."

Greene added: "You must never underestimate them. [The players] are still playing in the NBA.

"They've got players who average 20 points per game like Kemba Walker. They are All-Stars and leaders in their teams which proves that they are high quality players.

"The problem is that we are spoiled from the previous years, when players like James Harden, Kevin Durant or LeBron James played.

"Now you have players like Khris Middleton, who many won't even know. You have to be a basketball expert to know Khris Middleton, maybe even Kemba Walker.

"That's the problem, that many look at who's not in the team, rather than who is."

Greece are another potential contender due to the presence of Middleton's Milwaukee Bucks team-mate and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Greene believes they can be successful but says the team's big European stars must get used to playing second fiddle to Antetokounmpo, who will dominate the narrative.

"The important thing is that all players understand their role," Greene said. "The years in which Giannis didn't play, all the players had another role.

"He is the top star on and off the court. When there are press conferences, there are going to be 50 cameras around him and the other players will get what is left. You have to handle this.

"They have to understand that even if they play a totally different role in Europe and are top stars here, like Nick Calathes at Panathinaikos. He is a team leader there and also still for Greece. He may even be the heart of the team.

"They all have to cope with that. If this works out, then they can get very, very far with Giannis as their power machine.

"But it all has to work out internally and they will have to let him walk in front and let him be the leader with Calathes at his side.

"Then they can be a very dangerous side, especially in defense. Offensively, they are not that strong, but in terms of defense, they can really hurt other teams."

Players for Team USA are well aware of the opportunity they have coming up in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Not just to represent their country, but to learn from coaching greats like Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr.

"I've really tried to kind of pick their brains," Team USA guard Donovan Mitchell said during training camp in Las Vegas earlier this month. "Picking everybody’s brain, coaches that have had such impact on this game, figuring out how to be a better overall player. Whether it's my approach to the game, whether it's a decision I make in the game defensively, offensively, whatever it may be."

Everyone wants to learn this year on Team USA. Mitchell said so on more than one occasion and plenty of players echoed the sentiment. Every single one of them talked about their excitement, specifically when it comes to playing for Popovich.

It's not hyperbole to call the San Antonio Spurs coach an NBA legend.

Popovich has won five NBA titles in San Antonio and three Coach of the Year awards. Only two coaches in the history of the league have more titles than him (Phil Jackson with 11 and Red Auerbach with nine) and two more have tied him in championships (Pat Riley, John Kundla).

He has as much respect as anyone in the NBA and his level of knowledge can be magnetic.

"We all grew up watching Pop, now we're playing against him," Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker said. "We know how much of a legend he is, he's just an unbelievable coach, so for me to get the opportunity to play for him, for him to pick me to be a part of this team, it's a blessing."

This isn't the first time Popovich has been in a situation to rub off on players from around the NBA. He also was an assistant for the national team in the early 2000s and was on the bench when Team USA earned a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics.

That was a tough moment for Popovich, even though he was only an assistant on Larry Brown's USA staff. The bronze medal broke a string of three straight golds for Team USA at the Olympics and it remains the only time the United States has earned less than gold in the last seven Games.

Mike Krzyzewski's decision to step down as Team USA head coach after the Rio Olympics opened up an opportunity for Popovich to take over, but he has his hands full in San Antonio and taking the head coaching job for a national team is a big decision. It was not guaranteed he would coach this team in 2019 at the FIBA World Cup in China but, eventually, he gave in.

"I thought about it," he said earlier this month, via ESPN. "I met with Mr. [Jerry] Colangelo [Team USA's managing director]. I took a little bit of time. We talked several times. I knew what I was getting into. It's your country. You say yes. You man up and try to surround yourself with as much brainpower as you can."

In a way, the role provides Popovich with a shot at redemption for his country. It's a tough shot as this FIBA roster was marred by withdrawals and injuries and goes into the World Cup lacking the usual star power of a USA team.

Team USA will have to figure some things out and has dealt with some challenges on the court already with a loss to Australia last week, which broke a 78-game winning streak in international play.

Kerr put the state of this team — and Popovich's foray back onto its coaching staff — into great perspective as the World Cup creeps closer.

"The whole game is trying to put the puzzle together," said Kerr, the Golden State Warriors head coach who is assisting Popovich.

It is a puzzle Popovich was willing to figure out and one his players are embracing alongside him as he shows them how to fit the pieces into place ahead of Sunday's tournament opener against the Czech Republic in Shanghai.

"Seeing him when you play against him, you don't get to see this side of Pop that those guys in San Antonio see," Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. "So being here and able to play for him, he's a fun guy, he jokes a lot, I didn't know he was a jokester like that.

"He jokes a lot, but he's about business … you know he's really good about making sure to have fun and just staying loose and get you right, (and) he's a guy you really want to have coach you."

Australia beat the United States for the first time in history in Melbourne on Saturday and Patty Mills hopes the Boomers can build something special from the landmark achievement.

Team USA won the first exhibition 102-86 at Marvel Stadium on Thursday, but the hosts responded with a 98-94 victory in front of 52,079 fans two days later.

Australia came from 10 points down in the second half, with San Antonio Spurs guard Mills scoring 30 – including the last 10 for the Boomers – to see out a historic triumph.

"It's a building block for us. We've been taking it step by step and understanding that this is process. But it's good to get everyone back and get everyone on the floor," said Mills in an on-court interview.

"This is just one step towards our progress and ultimate goal of creating history and winning a medal, so we're locked in on that focus for sure.

"The support has been amazing. We've been through a lot of adversity as a team, as a programme.

"We're very proud to represent these colours and represent them the right way and we're doing it as a team, as a group, as best mates."

Kemba Walker scored 22 points off the bench for Gregg Popovich's USA side, while Harrison Barnes had 20 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes.

Team USA conclude their tour in Sydney on Sunday when they face Canada, who will meet Australia in their FIBA World Cup opener in China on September 1.

Frank de Boer has backtracked on his equal pay comment after he said it was "ridiculous" the United States women's national team expect to be paid the same as their male counterparts.

Women's World Cup winners USA, who beat Netherlands in last month's final, continue to be embroiled in a battle for equal pay with U.S. Soccer.

Atlanta United coach De Boer said he is a champion of women's soccer and indicated he regrets his choice of words during an interview with the Guardian.

“I think for me, it’s ridiculous. It's the same like tennis," De Boer said to the newspaper. "If there are watching, for the World Cup final, 500 million people or something like that, and 100 million for a women's final, that's a difference. So it's not the same.

"And of course, they have to be paid what they deserve to and not less, just what they really deserve. If it's just as popular as the men, they will get it, because the income and the advertising will go into that.

"But it's not like that, so why do they have to earn the same? I think it's ridiculous. I don't understand that."

De Boer, however, has now clarified his comments.

"Especially the word ridiculous," he said. "It's a hard word if I read that word only. If you see the whole context, I was very clear that I always promote women's soccer."

USA star Megan Rapinoe has been one of the most vocal athletes to speak out against the pay disparity, using her platform after USA defended their World Cup title.

Talks between players and governing body U.S. Soccer have broken down, with Rapinoe indicating she will continue fighting for equal pay.

"They're the only employer that we could have playing for the national team, we're the only employees that they could have, so for better or for worse we're tethered together," she told ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday.

"I think that if and when and ever they are willing to have a conversation about equal pay that starts there and goes forward, we're always open to that."

Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez wished their MVP-winning Milwaukee Bucks team-mate Giannis Antetokounmpo the best with Greece at the FIBA World Cup, just not against the United States.

Middleton and Lopez watched as Antetokounmpo dominated in the NBA last season after he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while helping the Bucks clinch in the number one seed and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Bucks pair heaped praise on Antetokounmpo, even if they are set to be his rivals at the upcoming World Cup in China.

"There are just so many possessions, so many dunks, but the vision, the unselfishness that he has, it's just so impressive for a superstar of his talent," Lopez told reporters on Wednesday. "And his work ethic is just what amazes me the most, it’s really second to none."

"Every night he steps on that court, you know he's going to give it his all," Middleton added. "You know he's due for one of those big plays."

Middleton and Lopez will not be Antetokounmpo's team-mates at the World Cup, which gets underway in China on August 31.

Antetokounmpo will lead Greece, who have been drawn in Group F alongside New Zealand, Brazil and Montenegro.

Reigning champions Team USA, meanwhile, will face Turkey, Czech Republic and Japan in Group E.

"We've spent hours in practice against each other and it will definitely be fun to get it in a real game," Middleton said. "That's my team-mate, my brother and wish him the best but hopefully not too good against us."

There is no guarantee Middleton will get a chance to match up with Antetokounmpo, but it is not out of the realm of possibility, either.

If both teams finish in the top two of their pools, they could get a chance to face off down the line.

It is something Lopez said USA are not planning for yet but admitted it would be a difficult task on defense, just like it was for every NBA team this past season.

"It would be a total team job," Lopez said. "All five guys have to be on the same page all doing our job."

New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long hopes the United Kingdom's "strange" work permit system will not deny him the chance to join West Ham.

Manuel Pellegrini is reportedly keen on signing the 26-year-old to bolster his options at centre-back.

Long started five times for the United States at the recent Gold Cup but has not yet satisfied the Football Association's requirements for endorsement of a work permit.

Premier League clubs must submit their applications before the transfer window closes on Thursday.

"As our biggest ally, it seems strange that a football player from the US can't automatically get a work visa to play in England," Long told Sky Sports.

"Every kid in the USA dreams of playing in the English Premier League.

"Not many players get the chance, so of course I would like to play there some day."

Multiple Ligue 1 clubs including Marseille have been linked to Long, the MLS Defender of the Year for 2018.

"I just signed a new contract, so the decision is up to my club and the other team," he said.

The United States closed the XX Panamerican U20 Championship with more dominant performances to leave Jamaica battling for the minor positions in both the men’s and women’s 4x400m.

On the women’s side, the USA quartet of Alexis Holmes, Kimberly Harris, Ziyah Holman, and Kayla Davis scorched the track with a time of 3:24.04, well ahead of the second-placed Canadians who were next to cross the line in 3:30.68.  The Jamaicans led by the foursome of Daniella Deer, Shaqueena Foote, Lashanna Graham, and Kavia Francis got the bronze medal in a time of 3:31.34.

The Caribbean team fared better in the male equivalent but the quartet of Evaldo Whitehorne, Jeremy Farr, Bovel McPherson and Anthony Cox could only manage to chase the US to the line in 3:00.99.  The USA four of Frederick Lewis, Matthew Boling, Matthew Moorer and Justin Robinson crossed for gold in 2:59.30.  The Brazilians were third in 3:02.84.

Elsewhere, the Jamaicans managed to secure a bronze medal in the triple jump, where Terrol Wilson finished third with a leap of 15.99.  The event went to Colombia’s Geiner Moreno, with Cuba’s Andy Hecheverria second in 16.33.  Rovane Williams also secured a bronze medal after finishing third in the men’s 400m hurdles.  Williams crossed the line in 50.29, behind James Smith (49.84) and Brasil’s Alison Alves who won the event in 48.49.

The United States ended on top of the leaderboard with 16 gold, 12 silver, and 7 bronze medals. Canada were next with 4 gold, 5 silver and 2 bronze medals with the Jamaicans third with 3 gold, 6 silver, and 4 bronze.

 

 

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons will not play for Australia at this year's FIBA World Cup, though he will feature in exhibition games against the United States.

After initially making himself available for August's World Cup in China, Simmons announced on Tuesday that he will skip the tournament and instead focus on the upcoming NBA season with the 76ers.

While he is set to sit out the World Cup, Simmons will travel to Australia for a pair of games against Canada in Perth on August 16 and 17 before facing Team USA in Melbourne on August 22 and 24.

"I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I've made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China this summer," Simmons – who has signed a new five-year contract with the 76ers – said in a statement via Twitter.

"I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games.

"I'm really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving close to 2020 where I will be honoured and humbled to represent my country on the world's biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.

"Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new team-mates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season."

The 76ers selected Simmons with the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and he has played a large role in the team's resurgence as an oversized, do-it-all playmaker.

Philadelphia put together one of the most talented starting line-ups in basketball last season, featuring Simmons, Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris as they finished third in the Eastern Conference before falling to the Toronto Raptors in the second round.

The 76ers lost Butler and Redick this offseason, but acquired Josh Richardson and Al Horford, giving them tremendous defensive potential.

United States forward Megan Rapinoe has echoed Serena Williams' comments on equal pay amid the Women's World Cup winners' ongoing fight for parity with the men's team.

Rapinoe scored the opening goal as USA beat Netherlands 2-0 in the World Cup final to retain their title during a tournament where the 34-year-old became a global icon.

The attacker also had a war of words with US president Donald Trump during the tournament in France after saying she was "not going to the f****** White House".

American players have been embroiled in an argument over equal pay with governing body U.S. Soccer for many years.

After losing the Wimbledon final to Simona Halep on Saturday, tennis great Williams bristled at a suggestion she should scale back her efforts to fight equal pay in order to concentrate on matching Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam singles titles.

And Rapinoe, speaking in an interview on NBC on Sunday, backed her fellow American and insisted she will also not be changing her outspoken approach.

"You know what? I'm gonna fight for equal pay every day, for myself, for my team, and for every single person out there," said Rapinoe.

"Man, woman, immigrant, US citizen, person of colour, whatever it may be. 'Equal pay,' as the great Serena Williams said, 'til I'm in my grave'."

Rapinoe, whose partner is basketball player Sue Bird, also defended her previous comments on Trump when asked what she would say to her fans who support the president and believe she should go to the White House.

She added: "I would try to share our message. Do you believe that all people are created equal? Do you believe that equal pay should be mandated?

"Do you believe that everyone should have health care? Do you believe that we should treat everyone with respect? Those are the basics of what we're talking about.

"I understand people feel upset or uncomfortable. There's feelings of disrespect about the anthem protest or things that I've said in the past. Ultimately, I am here, open and honest.

"I've admitted mistakes. I will continue to do that. I'll continue to be vulnerable and be honest and open and have that conversation."

Jamaica added 20 medals including nine more gold medals from their day-one output to conclude the 2019 NACAC U18 and U23 Championships in Mexico with 39 medals to finish third behind Mexico’s 63 and the United States’ 56 medals.

Despite the fact that, for the first time in the competition’s history, two Caribbean teams, Haiti and Jamaica, were in the final four of the Gold Cup, no players from those nations managed to find their way into a Best XI. 

Mexico boss Tata Martino flashed a warning to the rest of CONCACAF after their Gold Cup win, insisting they can be even better with the likes of Hirving Lozano available.

A Jonathan dos Santos goal was enough to defeat defending champions the United States 1-0 in Sunday's final in Chicago, securing El Tri's eighth title.

USA created and squandered their own chances to win the match, yet Martino pointed out afterwards Mexico still have another level they can go to.

PSV ace Lozano was absent with injury, while Hector Herrera, Javier Hernandez and Jesus Manuel Corona also missed the tournament, and Carlos Vela remains out of favour with the coach.

"I keep insisting we will be even better with those who were not here due to different circumstances," Martino told a news conference.

"We were without one of the three best forwards in the Dutch league [Lozano], for example, who had a knee injury.

"Obviously there's no reason to think we can't be better with these players. We'll see which players return and which don't.

"I'm very happy with the first six months of my time in charge."

United States coach Gregg Berhalter, himself in his first year in the job, suggested the final showed how far his side still have to go.

"Over the course of 90 minutes, Mexico were the better team," he said. "Having said that, we started the game really bright. We came out, created some really good chances.

"When you talk about a step the team needs to take, we're close. We're close, but we weren't there tonight."

USA forward Jozy Altidore added: "That's what's hard about these tournaments. You play games that aren't up to scruff until the final. The final is a huge step.

"It's a faster game, just way more intense than some of the group-stage games. In that regard, it was tough but it was a good measuring stick of where we're trying to go.

"I think it's a step forward. If you look at the final here and how we started the game, I think it was terrific.

"I've been on this team a long time. To see that initiative, to see the guys eager to play forward and play out of pressure and keep the ball in a game like this, this is progress in my opinion."

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