Nigeria pulled off one of the great upsets in international basketball history with their stunning victory over the United States this weekend, and one of their players may have rubbed some salt in the wound afterwards.
Miami Heat big man Precious Achiuwa, the starting center for the Nigerian team, sent Team USA’s Kevin Durant to the deck with a big block during the first half of Saturday’s Olympic exhibition.
Nigeria would go on to win the game by the final of 90-87, marking Team USA’s first-ever loss to an African country in international play.
After the victory, Achiuwa took to his Instagram with a celebratory post. In his post, he included a shot of his block on Durant. Achiuwa’s caption read in part, “You’re not that guy pal, trust me your [sic] not that guy.”
Achiuwa seems to be referencing the popular “You’re Not That Guy” meme on social media. Here is a clip of the original viral video.
Achiuwa and Nigeria definitely deserve their moment after such a big victory, even in an exhibition. Durant, meanwhile, is getting a taste of his own medicine given his well-known fondness for trolling on social media.
The US men’s national basketball team lost in an upset against Nigeria during an exhibition game in Las Vegas, Nev. on Saturday night.
Nigeria made 20 three-pointers as they beat Team USA 90-87. The game was close most of the way, but Nigeria pulled ahead at the end. USA Basketball had a poor possession at the end where they ran down most of the clock and then got fouled with a few seconds left.
Zach LaVine missed his first of two free throws and then missed the second one intentionally. Nigeria got the rebound and was able to secure the win.
The United States is the favorite to win the gold medal at the Olympics in Japan, while Nigeria is a big underdog. The US has also crushed Nigeria in the past, winning their last meeting by 44 points and the meeting before that by 83. That’s what makes the game such an upset, though Nigeria has a number of NBA players on their roster.
Although nobody wants to lose a game, this is still just an exhibition and not necessarily a sign of what may come at the Olympics. But it’s a huge, high-profile win for Nigeria and Mike Brown, who is their head coach.
Despite an already compressed summer and restrictive protocols, Team USA managed to put together a star-studded men’s basketball roster for the delayed Summer Olympics in Tokyo. That is apparently largely down to two star players who helped recruit other big names.
A deep dive into the construction of the Olympic roster by Brian Windhorst of ESPN revealed that Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard, two of Team USA’s earliest commitments, used their influence within the NBA to convince a number of other key players to join the team. Both players also consulted with Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Gregg Popovich to determine the construction of the roster.
Lillard was key in recruiting Draymond Green to the team. He also had a significant role in getting Jayson Tatum to sign on, as Tatum was also partially convinced by the strength of the team. Both Lillard and Durant were instrumental in lobbying Popovich to add Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant to one of the last roster spots, with Grant badly wanting a place on the team.
Notably, the selection of Kevin Love was down to Popovich. While Love’s inclusion was criticized in some quarters, Popovich liked Love’s versatility and shooting ability, two major priorities when it came to building the roster.
It would have been very easy for top players to pass on the Olympics given the logistical difficulties involved in taking part. Ultimately, Durant and Lillard were able to convince the aforementioned players, as well as other key names such as Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, to sign on. Thanks in part to those efforts, the Americans will be heavy favorites to claim another gold medal.
It is unclear if USA Basketball head coach Gregg Popovich is going to coach the team beyond the Tokyo Olympics, but he is going to ride out the coronavirus epidemic for as long as necessary.
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said Tuesday that both he and Popovich will remain with the team in 2021, which is when the Tokyo Olympics are expected to take place. The Summer Games have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The commitments everyone made for 2020 are still there, we’re all in and we’re committed,” Colangelo said, via ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “It’s important to deal with the unknowns and this virus. This too shall pass and we’ll be back for everyone’s well being.”
Team USA training was scheduled to begin July 4 with the Olympics starting July 24, but the Tokyo Games were postponed this week. A new date for the Olympics has not been announced, and it’s possible there could be some scheduling conflicts depending upon if and when the NBA resumes its 2019-20 season. Colangelo admitted that could be a potential issue.
“We will follow the leader. We have to wait to see how everything is laid out and we’ll make the adjustment,” Colangelo said. “Our players are NBA players first, let’s face that. … Changing the window for the NBA is easier said than done. There’s a lot of logistics and contracts to deal with. Same for the Olympics. You have to assume it will be around the same dates.”
Popovich has not yet committed to coaching in the NBA beyond this season, but it makes sense that both he and Colangelo are sticking with Team USA as long as necessary. The coronavirus outbreak has impacted the entire sports calendar. No one could have seen it coming.
The USA Basketball Men’s National Team were finally unable to escape a game with their impressive win streak intact on Wednesday, as they fell to France and were eliminated from the 2019 FIBA World Cup. While France’s 89-79 win may not have been all that much of an upset, the reactions proved that most expected a different outcome.
One of those reactions came from Tony Parker, who is one of the most recognizable players in French basketball history. The former San Antonio Spur was clearly thrilled with France’s win even though his former coach, Gregg Popovich, is the coach of Team USA.
Parker won four NBA championships playing under Popovich, so he probably had some mixed emotions. Still, the moment was a huge one for France. USA entered the game with a 58-game win streak in major international competitions, which tells you all you need to know.
Numerous players opted not to play for Team USA this summer, and some of them were criticized for their decisions. The team was unable to match the chemistry of a squad like France, whose players had been playing together in international competition for years. If star NBA players opt out of the 2020 Olympics the same way they did with the World Cup, the gold medal could be up for grabs.
Serbia national basketball coach Sasha Djordjevic seems to be looking forward to a potential matchup against the United States.
In an interview on Serbian national TV this week, Djordjevic had some trash talk for Team USA ahead of the FIBA World Cup.
“Let’s let them [Team USA] play their basketball and we will play ours and if we meet, may God help them,” he said in a semi-serious tone, per Eurohoops.
While Djordjevic’s remark may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, he has reason to feel confident with Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic manning the middle in a four-out offense. Also riding shotgun for Serbia is a number of NBA-tested talents, including former LA Clippers guard Milos Teodosic, Dallas Mavericks big man Boban Marjanovic, and Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica of the Sacramento Kings.
Team USA did beat Serbia the last time they faced off in the 2016 Olympics. This time around however, the Americans could struggle to contain a well-spaced, Jokic-centered offense, especially with the number of star withdrawals (some more unusual than others) that they have endured.
Heading into the Rio Olympics, the U.S. women were the overwhelming favorite to win the gold medal in basketball and they did not disappoint.
On Saturday, the U.S. was victorious over Spain by a final score of 101-72 to capture the gold medal, their sixth consecutive in the event, to continue a dominant run in Olympic competition that dates back to 1996.
Diana Taurasi and Lindsay Whalen each scored 17 points to lead the team. Maya Moore added 14, Breanna Stewart had 11, and Elena Delle Donne scored 10 to round out the players in double-digits.
The win was No. 49 in a row in Olympic competition and the U.S. outscored their opponents during the tournament by a combined score of 817-519. They topped the 100-point mark in six of the eight games they played. For Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, and Sue Bird, Saturday’s win gave each of them their fourth Olympic gold medal.
Among those to congratulate the team on bringing another gold medal back to the United States were LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The U.S. men will try to finish off their trip to Rio with a win in the gold medal game against Serbia on Sunday.
After a pair of early blowouts, Team USA has found it much tougher with a trio of tight wins. The inevitable questions have started, and Charles Barkley thinks the issue is inherent in the roster.
Barkley told Sports360AZ.com that the Americans play too much isolation.
“It’s not a good team to put together,” Barkley said, via ESPN. “If you take away DeAndre Jordan, every guy on that team is a ball-dominant guy. You see them playing a lot of one-on-one basketball.
“That’s the thing I’ve noticed more than anything. Like, you have to understand when you put a team together like that, you have to have some role players.”
Barkley thinks the team has too many players who want to shoot.
“You take a guy like Kyle Lowry, who is a hell of a player, he wants to score. Kyrie [Irving] wants to score. Kevin [Durant] wants to score. DeMar [DeRozan] wants to score. So, I think they have been really stagnant offensively.
“When they put that team together in the future, they have to realize we can’t have just really, really great offensive players. They gotta have players that if they don’t get a shot, they’re not just gonna stand around and mope.”
At least one of Team USA’s players has diagnosed some of the problems. We’ll see if they have an easier time with Argentina on Wednesday.
The lack of NBA playoff success is perhaps the most glaring hole on the resumé of nine-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony. But if USA Basketball can take home the gold medal this summer in Rio, none of that will even matter to him.
In an interview with Marc Stein of ESPN on Thursday, Anthony said that he would consider his basketball career “great” if he won three gold medals, even without winning an NBA championship.
“Most athletes don’t have an opportunity to say that they won a gold medal, better yet three gold medals,” Anthony said. “I would be very happy walking away from the game knowing that I’ve given the game everything I have (and) knowing I played on a high level at every level: High school, college, won (a championship) in college (at Syracuse) and possibly three gold medals.
“I can look back on it when my career is over — if I don’t have an NBA championship ring — and say I had a great career.”
The 32-year-old Anthony is the veteran leader on Team USA at this year’s Rio Games, having already competed in three Olympics (2004, 2008, 2012) and won two gold medals. No male has ever won three in the sport of basketball. With 31 points on Wednesday in a win over Australia, Anthony also become USA Basketball’s all-time leading scorer.
Such triumphs at the international level help ease the sting of Anthony’s failure to capture an NBA title in his 13-season career, having only made it to the Conference Finals one time. Retiring without winning a championship would hurt Anthony’s legacy and almost delegitimize his career in the eyes of fans and pundits who place such a heavy premium on rings (a phenomenon that our founder explained helped push Kevin Durant to the Warriors). But retiring as perhaps the greatest basketball Olympian ever would be more than enough to satisfy Anthony, and that’s all that really counts.
Image Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Cavs guard Kyrie Irving has emerged this summer as one of the foundational young talents of USA Basketball. But he actually once came dangerously close to not even being eligible for the roster.
In an interview with Michael Lee of The Vertical on Wednesday, Irving, who was born in Australia and spent the first two years of his life there, said that he almost accepted an invitation to play on the Australian under-18 basketball team as a 17-year-old, which would have made him ineligible to suit up for the United States in future international play. It was only the intervention of Mike Krzyzewski, who would later become Irving’s college coach at Duke, that prevented him from doing so.
“It was very serious,” Irving said when asked how close he came to playing for Australia. “It was a legit thing, until Coach K intervened. He strong-armed me. As a young fella, he did tell me I had a chance to be a part of something bigger than myself. He said, ‘You could be the starting point guard on the U.S. Olympic team.’ I never thought it would happen as soon as it has, but I had aspirations and dreams of being a guard on an Olympic team.”
Now 24, Irving is indeed the starting point guard for Team USA under Krzyzewski at the Rio Olympics and is confident in his ability to help lead the squad to the gold medal. And as Irving spins, shakes, bakes, and splashes his way around dumbfounded international opponents this August, it looks like we have Coach K to thank for having the foresight to see Irving’s limitless potential some seven years ago.