Erik Spoelstra Addresses Returning to Philippines With Team USA

Erik Spoelstra takes pride in his Filipino roots and to be back in the Philippines with Team USA is a dream come true for the Miami Heat coach.

Spoelstra is a first-generation Filipino-American as his mother, Elisa, is from Laguna – which is situated in the mountains two hours south of Manila.

The Team USA assistant coach visited the Philippines for the first time when he was three years old and returned to hold basketball camps for kids from 2008-12.

He describes the chance to coach in Manila and show the Filipino culture to his fellow coaches and players a “a pinch me moment”.

“The spirit of it, it’s hard to explain; I do feel like it’s home in a way,” Spoelstra told The Athletic.

“This is a country of extremes. You’re here (at the team hotel in downtown Manila), and it feels like you’re in Brickell (an upscale neighborhood in downtown Miami with a similar tropical climate), and then you go 10 minutes out of here, there’s extreme poverty.

“You marvel sometimes how Filipinos can have such an amazing spirit. When we would look and say, wow, ‘You are without,’ they think they have everything. And that’s something that I’ve always wanted people to come on a trip with me to be able to see.”

Throughout his childhood, Spoelstra used to eat freeze dried lumpia (a traditional Filipino spring roll), which was mailed to him in Portland and he had tried some in Team’s USA private dining room this week.

“We’d microwave it and eat it,” Spoelstra said. “No matter where I’ve tried it, he always made it the best. … it’s kind of like snacking on potato chips.”

As for Team USA, many are skeptical about the lack of star power in the team which is in stark contrast to the coaching staff.

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It comprises of five-time NBA Champion Steve Kerr, Clippers coach Ty Lue and of course Spoelstra, but he believes the squad will get the job done and deserve respect.

“The coaches should not be the ones that are recognized,” Spoelstra said, “and in three weeks, that’s going to be a fact. We have some amazing basketball players on this team. This is the future of the NBA; these are the future stars. Anthony Edwards, that’s gonna be a household name, it already is. Jalen Brunson, Jaren Jackson, the list goes on and on.”

The FIBA Basketball World Cup will begin on August 25 and take place in Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia.

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