Damian Lillard explains how facing foreign NBA players internationally is ‘completely different’
The USA men’s basketball team is expected to win every game it plays in the Olympics, which is why Sunday’s loss to France in the opening game was so jarring. The talent gap is clear, even though France has solid NBA players in its own right.
USA guard Damian Lillard pointed out after the game, however, that playing these players internationally is very different than facing them in the NBA. Lillard said these international players have more freedom and comfort playing internationally, and seem to raise their game at that level.
“And you know who we see each night sometimes in the NBA, they are completely different when they play for their countries,” Lillard said, via Eurohoops. “They got more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious. So we put ourselves in a dogfight, and they made plays to win it.”
The French have one of the NBA’s best defenders in Rudy Gobert, as well as a solid starter in Evan Fournier. Still, few are going to feel that even playing at a higher level, players like that should be able to lead their team to a win over the Americans. Everyone knows that. So do the players, some of whom apparently feel that the coach isn’t getting the most out of them.
Team USA can still advance to the knockout stage with wins over Iran and the Czech Republic, two teams they are expected to beat handily. Still, the questions are mounting at this stage, and even if Lillard is right, it hardly explains everything.