“I think that the more ball handlers you have, the better,” Haliburton told The Athletic. “I think the way we play is kind of whoever gets it, get out and push. But I think having Jalen and me at the point guard spot, regardless of if we play together, if I’m behind him or in front of him, whatever, like it doesn’t matter because I think we’re two very capable guys and that’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball. Like everybody’s going to play. We’re all used to playing 35, 38, 40 minutes a game in the season. But with this, you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Haliburton did just that, delivering a game-high 12 assists as Brunson’s chief backup during Team USA’s 117-74 demolition of Puerto Rico Monday night at the start of the USA Basketball Showcase Games. He added seven points and four rebounds for good measure.
On the other hand, the 6-foot-2 Brunson led Team USA with a game-high 12 rebounds that went with 10 points, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot in a solid double-double performance.
Both point guards led the national team in the plus-minus column, with Haliburton registering a game-high plus-24 and Brunson a plus-23 when he was on the court.
At some point in the fourth quarter, Team USA coach Steve Kerr played them together, which he experimented with during their training camp last week.
“Guys who have feel and can pass, they can play with anybody. But it’s fun. It’s fun having kind of a dual point guard lineup out there,” Kerr told ESPN over the weekend before the game against Puerto Rico.
Josh Hart Receives Monster Extension
Team USA guard Josh Hart, who sat out Monday night’s win over Puerto Rico due to his looming contract extension with the Knicks, is finally close to resolving the matter.
Hart and the Knicks are finalizing a monster contract extension — four-year, $81 million — according to multiple reports on Wednesday. The Knicks guard was rewarded for agreeing to pick up his $12.9 million player option for next season instead of declining it and testing the open market, which allowed the team to use their full midlevel exception on his former Villanova teammate Donte DiVincenzo in free agency.
Hart stands to earn a total of $94 million over the next five seasons.
The 28-year-old Knicks guard is expected to finally make his Team USA debut against Slovenia on Saturday in Malaga, Spain.
Evan Fournier Extends Hot Streak with France
Knicks disgruntled guard Evan Fournier continued his redemption tour with France after his worst season in the NBA.
Fournier, who appeared in a career-low 27 games with the Knicks last season after getting stripped of his starting job and eventually yanked out of the rotation, had back-to-back big games for France in their buildup for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
The 30-year-old French guard scattered 13 points, five rebounds and four assists in France’s 86-67 victory over Venezuela last Monday. It was a fitting follow-up to his 20-point scoring explosion in France’s 80-69 win over Montenegro last week.