Team USA ready to jump into pool play

Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis had some fun in the sun before the start of pool play. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

BILBAO, Spain -- Wednesday was a travel day for Team USA, with two days of non-contact practice to come before Saturday night's opener here in the FIBA World Cup against Finland.

Yet we can still pass along a few dribbles of Team USA discussion, in the wake of Tuesday's exhibition trouncing of Slovenia, to try to fill the void:

There are no tangible signs of concern -- yet -- out of the Team USA camp about its defense being well ahead of the offense at this stage.

That's realistically what the coaches and players expected after a mere four exhibition games together and the need to almost start over after Kevin Durant's withdrawal from the team following Paul George's horrific leg injury.

"I think we still have to get ready in pool play," Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said, acknowledging that the forthcoming five games in Group C can almost serve as another training camp of sorts given the absence of a team in the pool that can pose a real threat.

"We think that pool play is gonna be very important‎."

The Yanks play Turkey, New Zealand, Dominican Republic and Ukraine after the opener against the Finns to complete a five-games-in-six-days stretch.

Said reserve forward Rudy Gay: "Until we get a rhythm, we have to play defense and make our defense produce points. ... Our continuity on offense isn't really there yet. [But] as long as we go out there and play defense, we'll be fine."

Team USA players likewise went to great lengths to try to downplay the free throw woes witnessed in the Slovenia game.

After the Yanks shot better than 80 percent from the line in their first three exhibition wins over Brazil, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, ‎they combined to clank 17 of 46 free throws Tuesday night, including a 2-for-8 start.

"We really struggled from the free throw line," Team USA power forward Kenneth Faried said. "There is such a thing as too loose and we were. Guys were kind of just rushing their shot a little bit, not using their technique. [Then] when we tried to use technique, we were still kind of just missing."

Said teammate Derrick Rose: "Those free throws can easily be fixed, so we're not worried about that."

You can probably guess, given the rampant pooh-poohing to this point, what Rose had to say about the state of his health after logging an underwhelming 20 minutes off the bench behind starter Kyrie Irving in which he was clearly looking to pass more than anything.

"I'm past my injuries," Rose said.

What did bother Team USA against Slovenia?

The temperature.

Gran Canaria Arena is a beautiful new building that opened just in the spring and was constructed in part to serve as one of the six host venues for the inaugural FIBA World Cup. But Faried noticed a difference right away in the first game abroad.

"I think we played tired," Faried said. "It was hot out there. It was kind of hard. We're not used to a gym not having AC, so this was something different."

As rough as Tuesday's friendly was on Goran Dragic in terms of the U.S. defensive swarms he had to contend with, there was one undeniable source of solace to make the Phoenix Suns' star smile.

Dragic's younger brother, Zoran, is a backcourt starter for Slovenia next to big bro. And Zoran led the Slovenians against Team USA with 16 points, courtesy of lefty shooting mechanics that look almost identical to Goran's.

"Just natural," Goran said with a laugh, insisting that they weren't coached ‎to mirror each other's release.

"He was awesome," Dragic continued. "He was our best player on the court. ‎It means a lot to play with him. We don't see each other so often. OK, on Skype, but it's not the same. Now it's a perfect situation for us to play together with the national team.

"We can share the court and maybe do some damage [in Group D]. And hopefully someday ‎we can play each other in the NBA."

Zoran Dragic, 24, is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who plays in Spain with Unicaja Malaga. He badly wants to matriculate to the NBA, as Goran suggested, but he opted for a new deal this summer with Malaga that offers greater security.

Goran Dragic, meanwhile, is the only NBAer on a Slovenian team in transition after stalwarts such as Rasho Nesterovic and Bostjan Nachbar stopped playing international ball.

Having watched Dragic suffer through ankle issues throughout last season's ill-fated playoff push, Suns officials persuaded Slovenia coach Jure Zdovc to restrict The Dragon to 25 minutes or less throughout exhibition play. The restriction, I'm told, will be lifted when Slovenia opens Group D play against ‎Australia.

My man Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic has more on the ins and outs of Goran's summer stint with the national team in this fine piece from Tuesday's editions.