US basketball team gelling quickly: coach

US basketball team head coach Gregg Popovich (left) speaks with star Jayson Tatum in Melbourne.
US basketball team head coach Gregg Popovich (left) speaks with star Jayson Tatum in Melbourne.

Master coach Gregg Popovich is relishing the chance to fast-track the development of a new-generation US basketball team.

Missing a host of big names, the Americans have turned to the likes of Kemba Walker and rising superstars Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum for the two matches in Melbourne this week against the Boomers and next month's World Cup in China.

In his 23 years and counting as San Antonio Spurs head coach, Popovich has mastered the art of pulling together players from different countries and cultures, well before the NBA as a whole fully embraced the international nature of the sport.

He applies the same fundamentals in getting a new-look national team on the same page.

"We start at the beginning and try to figure out as quickly as we can what suits this particular group of players; who are your go-to guys? Who understands this offence or that offence? What kind of a defensive team can you be?" Popovich told reporters after training on Monday.

"You look at the players and figure that out as soon as you can and work at it.

"It's a quick study in a sense because you don't have a whole training camp and and then a season - you just have a training camp.

"But the challenge is exciting to tell you the truth.

"It's a lot of fun because you know you have to really concentrate and get things done quickly.

"It's enervating and exciting."

A "no phones" policy at dinner is also part of the Popovich plan, encouraging his players to get to know each other on a personal level.

Popovich knows what to expect from the Australian team ahead of the matches at Marvel Stadium on Thursday and Saturday - he sees it every day in San Antonio from Spurs and Boomers guard Patty Mills.

"They are relentlessly, physically tough, they run their offence and execute it really well," he said.

"That's a team that loves each other.

"They have been playing together, they're experienced and I would think that's going to continue.

"That's what they do.

"It's a hell of a group."

As an NBA teammate of Joe Ingles and the injured Dante Exum, Utah Jazz guard Mitchell also has plenty of insight into what makes the Boomers tick.

"They're going to go out there and compete and we're going to have to match their intensity," he said.

"These guys have played with each other for a very long time.

"Obviously we haven't played with each other as long so we have to be able to match that and be ready for what comes."

What is also certain to come is plenty of the verbal stuff from Ingles.

"We joke about it and goof off at practice and really compete," said Mitchell.

"I'm expecting a lot of trash talking form him and I'm excited about it.

"We've been looking forward to this ever since I told him I was playing for the US team."

Australian Associated Press