They may be short a few A-Listers, but the United States is “no C team” and under Gregg Popovich there is a whole lot of love as the champion coach takes charge of the United States for the first time.
The back-to-back World Cup winners will play the Boomers twice this month in Melbourne ahead of their title defence in China from August 31.
The Boomers, chasing a maiden international medal, will also face Canada in Perth before the sides lock horns again in their World Cup opener on September 1.
All three squads have been weakened by injury, personal reasons and club commitments, to the point where some fans have asked for their money back.
For the United States, LeBron James and Steph Curry were never considered, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant were both injured, while James Harden, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, Damian Lillard and Andre Drummond were among a host of big names to withdraw last month.
Kemba Walker is the only remaining NBA All-Star in the US squad, but Donovan Mitchell, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Kyle Lowry (pending a thumb injury) ensure long-time San Antonio coach Popovich has talent to mould.
“This is what it is all about, this is beyond playing for an NBA team, this is the highest level you can be, and it means so much for all of these guys down the road when they’re retired from all basketball,” he said.
“This is the most satisfying form of putting a bunch of guys together and them having empathy and love for each other.”
Team manager Jerry Colangelo has seen it all before and insists his side “is going to be fine”.”
“These are not ‘C’ players. You’ve heard a lot of criticism about who isn’t here, and I keep repeating that it’s about who is here,” he said.
Toronto’s NBA championship-winning coach Nick Nurse has been tasked with returning Canada to the Olympics for the first time since Steve Nash was point guard in 2000.
To do that they must finish above all but one of United States, Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela in China.
The withdrawals of stars Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins and Tristan Thompson haven’t helped, with Kelly Olynyk and Cory Joseph the only two established NBA talents in the squad.
What remains is either fringe NBA, college, or European-based players.
In contrast Australia had as many as eight NBA players to choose from when picking the 12-man team, even without the unavailable Ben Simmons, Thon Maker, Ryan Broekhoff and Dante Exum.
“I’ve coached in a lot of trenches and now I’ve got two of the best jobs in the world at the same time,” Nurse said.
“I’m extremely honoured and humbled to have both these jobs and just like I did with the Raptors, I want to give this one everything I got.”
BOOMERS WORLD CUP WARM-UP SCHEDULE
August 16 and 17 v Canada at RAC Arena, Perth.
August 22 and 24 v USA at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.