Team USA Basketball has been under a microscope in Tokyo after surprisingly losing two exhibition games prior to the Olympics, and the subpar play continued in their first official game on Sunday.
Team USA blew a late lead against France to lose its first game of the group stage by a score of 83-76. USA had a 74-73 lead with less than a minute remaining before Evan Fournier hit a 3-pointer and France never looked back. France finished the game on a 16-2 run.
The loss was Team USA’s first since the 2004 Olympics, when Argentina beat them in the semifinals. They had won 24 straight games.
Team USA is not exactly in trouble. They now have to beat Iran and the Czech Republic to advance to the knockout stage, and they will be heavily favored in both games. Though, they were favored by 13.5 points against France.
France has a good amount of NBA talent led by Fournier and Rudy Gobert. They are one of the better teams in the tournament, but their win over Team USA was yet another shock.
Fournier scored a game-high 28 points. Jrue Holiday led Team USA with 18 points after coming off the bench. No one else scored more than 12 points for Gregg Popovich’s team.
Team USA lost exhibition games against Nigeria and Australia ahead of the Olympics. Bradley Beal had to head home from Tokyo due to COVID protocols, but the assumption was that Team USA would overcome all of those setbacks. Kevin Durant explained why the two exhibition losses were not all that alarming, but Sunday’s loss to France will only add to the pressure Team USA is facing.
Due to the late start to the NBA season, three members of Team USA had to delay their arrival in Tokyo to play in the NBA Finals. After a competitive and draining series, even the other Team USA players wondered if the three would keep their commitment.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, members of Team USA watching the Finals speculated that Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, or Khris Middleton might try to back out of flying to Tokyo to join up with the team for the Olympics. The players wondered if the turnaround was too great, as the players had to fly in from Seattle for a game less than 24 hours after arriving, all less than a week after the NBA Finals.
Draymond Green said the fact that all three kept their commitments had won major respect from their Olympic teammates.
“I have a lot of respect for those guys for not only committing to do this but actually keeping their word,” Green said. “You’re talking about three true professionals, three extremely competitive guys that wouldn’t be on their way here if this didn’t mean something.
“We could’ve very easily got to the last game … and Devin Booker saying, ‘Man, we lost, I’m pissed off, I’m out,’ or Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday saying, ‘We just won a championship, I want to celebrate and stay home with my family, I’m out.’ It’s on us to make sure that we do our parts to make sure they’re rewarded with what they ultimately came here for, which is to help us to compete and win a gold medal.”
Team USA could use the help. After a pair of early exhibition losses, confidence hasn’t been dented inside the camp, but questions were definitely raised on the outside. The three late-arriving players can only help at this point.
Metta World Peace last played in the NBA in 2017. That hasn’t stopped him from wanting to someday be an Olympian by any means necessary.
In an appearance on “The Sheridan Show” podcast with Chris Sheridan, World Peace vented about his exclusion from the 2004 men’s basketball team that won Bronze in Athens. World Peace asserted that the team would have won Gold had it selected him, claiming that he was the “best defender in the world” at that point of his career.
Not only that, but World Peace made clear that he still wants to play in the Olympics. Failing that, he even volunteered to serve as water boy. How serious is he? He says he had his agent call USA Basketball about it.
“One day, I hope they pick me,” World Peace said. “Sometimes they pick veterans, they pick guys who don’t play [anymore]. I hope I can play in the Olympics; I deserve it just as much as anybody, I believe. Some people would argue that other people deserve it also. That’s true, but I am the one yapping about it.
“So hopefully one day an honorary jersey, end of the bench. I even told them I would get the water. I literally called the office. I told my agent, ‘Can I even be the water boy? Something?’ So every time someone brings up the Olympians, I rant, I rant I rant. I am an Olympian, for sure. I am an Olympian, a gold medalist, and I truly believe that.”
World Peace has a lot of ambitions, that much is clear. For now, few of them are likely to come true. His strategy is certainly unique, though. If he keeps talking about everything he’s interested in doing, maybe lightning will strike and he’ll get the opportunity. It’s just not likely to happen here.
Team USA is facing serious questions after a very bad start to its Olympic preparations by losing two exhibition games. As far as one of the team’s stars is concerned, there’s nothing to worry about.
Kevin Durant says the “stars were kind of aligned” for Team USA to struggle during its early exhibitions, citing the fact that the team was still learning how to play together.
“We’re a team that’s still coming together and trying to find our identity,” Durant told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “We have so many great players that you can play so many different ways, and we are indecisive at times on defense and offense. In the midst of us figuring it out, these teams are established and they’re running their sets. We’re working on our sets. The stars were kind of aligned for us to lose early on.”
Durant pushed back against the narrative that the lack of preparation shouldn’t matter because of Team USA’s overwhelming talent advantage. Durant said other countries have NBA players who are comfortable in their current roles.
“If you’re looking for NBA talent, those teams have it,” Durant said. “Understand where we’re at as a team and then you can make assumptions for yourself. We do have all the best players in the league, but these national teams have NBA players, too, who are now No. 1 options and they’re used to playing that role internationally. We’re still adjusting as a team, and that’s not making excuses. There’s a lot of context people need to understand. We didn’t expect to lose a game, but losing games happen. We’ll get it right.”
Team USA lost to Nigeria and Australia before rebounding to beat Argentina. They also lost a key player in Bradley Beal, who was ruled out for the Olympics due to COVID protocols.
Durant may be right that lack of familiarity is impacting things. However, with key players Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday still playing in the NBA Finals, that issue will linger once they join the team and try to catch up. Plus, there may be some other reasons the team has struggled that have nothing to do with familiarity.
Team USA Basketball is 1-2 so far in exhibition games ahead of the Olympics. Their two losses match the total amount of losses Team USA had in exhibition games from 1992 until this summer.
So, why is the team struggling?
Some of it has to do with the lack of rest some players had between the end of the NBA season and the start of international play. Some has to do with the team barely practicing together before embarking in games. Some has to do with poor defensive efforts. But another very big factor has been the lack of “superstar calls” the NBA players are used to receiving.
In a story published on Yahoo, Chris B. Haynes stated that multiple players like Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum were staring down officials after not getting the star treatment to which they are accustomed.
Here is an example of Damian Lillard not getting a foul call he was expecting:
And here was the same for Kevin Love:
One could very easily argue that it’s a much better quality game to not have players get those calls. That’s part of what the NBA is actually planning to address. It’s a smart move. And the NBA players better make an adjustment.
Team USA Basketball announced on Thursday that their upcoming exhibition game against Australia has been cancelled.
Friday’s game against Australia would have been the fourth of five scheduled exhibition games for the US Men’s National Team. The team lost its first two exhibition games before bouncing back to beat Argentina on Tuesday. They were scheduled for a rematch against Australia, but health and safety protocols got in the way.
Bradley Beal was placed in health and safety protocols over COVID-19 and will not join Team USA at the Olympics. Jerami Grant was also placed in health and safety protocols. The situation with those players explains the cancellation.
Sunday’s final exhibition game against Spain is still scheduled to take place.
Bradley Beal dropped off Team USA Basketball due to health and safety protocols, creating an open roster spot. Trae Young seems to be bothered that he didn’t get the call.
Young sent a tweet showing his issues with the situation. He tweeted a sad face emoji, along with a clip of Isiah Thomas discussing his Olympic team snub on “The Last Dance.”
Young is one of the top emerging players in the NBA and helped lead his Atlanta Hawks to the Eastern Conference finals. You would think he would be qualified for the team based on skill, but he hasn’t gotten a spot.
Maybe Team USA feels like Young wouldn’t be a great fit for whatever reason. They have Lloyd Pierce on their coaching staff, whom Young reportedly lost confidence in. Also, Young is known for using tactics to draw foul calls that aren’t called the same way in international play.
The US team lost its first two exhibition games and has some work to do after already falling short of upholding the standards of Team USA Basketball.
Young isn’t the first player who seems perturbed about his lack of an invitation.
Team USA is now a very uncharacteristic 0-2 to open Olympic exhibition play, and Ja Morant may have had shade for them after their latest loss.
Australia defeated Team USA Monday by a 90-83 final. The loss came days after Nigeria topped Team USA in another exhibition over the weekend.
After the game, the Memphis Grizzlies guard Morant asked what was going on with Team USA, adding that he was not watching. He then tweeted a crinkled-face emoji in response to the game’s final score.
Morant’s tweets might not seem like much on the surface. But the 21-year-old was a part of the USA Basketball consideration pool for the Olympics. Morant failed to even make the list of 57 finalists however, which was a head-scratching omission for many.
Team USA now looks like they really could have used a dynamic playmaker like Morant. Their roster construction is weighted heavily with one-on-one scorers without many pass-first guys to balance the boat. As for Morant himself, he is a player who takes notice of being snubbed. As such, these posts could easily read as a subtweet of Team USA.
Gregg Popovich got testy with reporter Joe Vardon after the United States lost to Australia in an exhibition game in Las Vegas, Nev. on Monday night.
Team USA has played two exhibition games in three days and lost both of them. The defeats mark the first time since pros began playing for Team USA Basketball that they have lost consecutive exhibition games.
After the loss, Damian Lillard and Popovich answered questions from the media. Popovich was not happy with Vardon for suggesting the US should be dominating their opponents more. He kept cutting off Vardon while defending the quality of the team’s opponents.
It’s true that the rest of the world has closed the gap with the US in men’s basketball. Many teams that were weak 20-30 years ago have improved drastically and become challengers. Still, in just 2016, Team USA was smashing its opponents in exhibition games by huge margins. They won the gold medal at the Olympics.
Popovich needs to get his act together. Of course, his issues with reporters are nothing new.
If Team USA Basketball’s exhibition loss to Nigeria on Saturday was a caution flag, then Monday’s exhibition loss to Australia is a red flag and officially marks the time to be concerned for the US.
The US lost its second straight exhibition game, this time falling 91-83 to Australia. Jayson Tatum put in a basket with 4:33 left to give the US an 82-80 lead, and that was the team’s last field goal of the game. Australia took over thereafter and won.
Australian has numerous NBA players on its roster, including Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, and Matisse Thybulle, who all led the team in scoring.
The US has now lost four of its last five games going back to the 2019 World Cup. They have lost consecutive exhibition games for the first time since pros began playing for the national team in 1992.
Team USA has only been together for a week, which likely isn’t helping their play. But they don’t have much time to improve before the Olympics in Tokyo begin. They need to get it together fast, otherwise matching the 2004 bronze medal finish might be the new expectation.