Team USA players reportedly frustrated with Gregg Popovich’s offense
Team USA Basketball lost to France in their first official game of the Olympics on Sunday despite being a huge favorite. That has led to even more questions about whether Gregg Popovich is the right person to lead the team, and there may be some frustration with the coach’s system.
USA blew a late lead against France to lose 83-76 in their first game of group play. Several players, including Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard, had poor shooting nights. According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, players were grumbling on their way back to the locker room about “running the San Antonio offense.”
Vardon also said Popovich is “horrified” by his own coaching record with Team USA, which is now 6-3 in games that count. Team USA went 73-3 in meaningful games from 1996 through 2016.
There was no need to panic after Team USA lost exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia, and the same holds true now. They can advance to the knockout stage with wins over Iran and the Czech Republic, and they are heavily favorite in both games. Still, the pressure is mounting.
Popovich said he was more “disappointed” by Sunday’s loss than “surprised.” He has repeatedly accused the media and fans of underestimating Team USA’s opponents and not giving them enough credit.
USA Coach Gregg Popovich on Tokyo Olympic opening loss to France: "When you lose a game, you're not surprised. You're disappointed. I don't understand the word 'surprised.' That sort of disses the French team, as if we're supposed to beat them by 30. That's a hell of a team."
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) July 25, 2021
It doesn’t matter what you want to call it. Team USA has by far the best collection of talent in the world, and for some reason that is not translating to quality play. Popovich had said the team’s offense will be based on “concepts” rather than set plays because of the limited preparation time, but apparently that is not working for players.
Durant didn’t sound all that concerned after Team USA’s two exhibition losses, as he felt they were easily explained. Popovich will have even more explaining to do if it happens again.