Despite the United States’ gold medal win, Kawhi Leonard said he harbors no regrets about skipping the Rio Olympics. Leonard said a “lot of things,” including the birth of his daughter, factored into his decision. “I caught a couple of quarters here and there (on TV),” he said. Leonard said he hopes to have another shot at the Olympics. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich replaced Mike Krzyzewski as the U.S. basketball coach after the 2016 Games.
Tim MacMahon: Harrison Barnes on his limited Team USA role: "It was one of those situations where you have to sacrifice. Obviously when you make the Olympic team, you want to show what you can do on the world's biggest stage. At the same time, winning gold took precedent. We didn't want to be the team that either lost the win streak or didn't come home with the gold. Those are the things that we as a team said we were going to put everything to the side and focus on that, and we came through."
Ethan Strauss: KD was asked about trash talk during Team USA, said there wasn't any. "We rarely talk about basketball" es.pn/2di5zF9
Nicolas Batum makes his public self-criticism for his summer with the French national team, revealing that the team and himself had their issues. As he explained: “Our tournament was very disappointing. It was perhaps our most important tournament and we’re not really there. We were a little overconfident, like “it’s good, we know each other, we will be ready on D-Day. We were perhaps too focused on the semi-finals, before playing the quarter-finals. The tournament had not started yet and one wondered how to avoid one or other team in the semis! Today, I still want to know what happened. Collectively and personally”.
But what has been forgotten is the number of NBA players who passed on those Athens Games. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, and Jason Kidd all elected not to play, leaving Iverson on an island. “That was a very touchy situation for me because when everybody didn’t end up going, me and Tim Duncan went,” Iverson said. “We went to represent our country. That’s no shot at the guys that didn’t go. I totally understand why they didn’t. I totally understand and all of them remain my friends. I still have the utmost respect for all of those guys. But me and Tim went.”
When Team USA rebuilt its Olympic squad for Beijing in 2008, Iverson was not invited. “As great as a season as I had, arguably one of the best seasons that I ever had, I wasn’t invited to go, that’s something that I wouldn’t say hurt me to this day, but the acknowledgment is there,” he said. “And the hurt will always exist because I felt that I truly should have been a part of the team. I should obviously be saying that I have a gold medal at 41 years old.”
Sam Amick: The [Ryan] Lochte thing, it's funny... Once that happened, moving around got even tougher for the Team USA men. Paul George particularly talked about it.
Nikola Jokic is brought to tears as he is greeted by his hometown of Sombor, Serbia after bring home Olympic Silver
Evan Fournier was arguably the most notable absence of France in the Olympic Games. The Orlando Magic player gave an interview to French L’Equipe “breaking” his silence regarding his exclusion from his national team’s roster and expressing an obvious resentment on the whole matter. “I hated not being in the Olympic Games,” he said. “I had suspected that I won’t make the cut a week before I was informed about it. I was reading interviews where only Rudy (Gobert) was mentioned among the players who didn’t play in the OQT but would go to Rio. In the end, I received a voicemail by Vincent Collet that briefly explained the reasons I was left out.”
Lack of proper communication between him and Federation was also something that frustrated Fournier. “The only time I’ve heard from the Federation this year was during a visit from Patrick Beesley (French NT technical director) in Orlando where he told me the dates of the qualifying tournament and Olympics. He didn’t tell me ‘If you do not come in Manila, then you do not come in Rio’. The second time was via an sms by Vincent Collet. It was our only contact outside competitions in the last three years. He was asking me for tickets to a game for his friends. I never closed the door to the French national team but these events sent me a clear message. That I’m not in the project. It’s that simple and it hurts.”
Cousins, who turned 26 during the Rio Games, wants to return to Team USA. “I’m open to [coming back for Tokyo 2020]. I’ll be older then, so it depends on how my body feels. As of right now, where I’m at, absolutely, I’m open to it,” he said. “I think people don’t understand [how hard this winning is]. They see the guys on the roster and they think automatically, they’re supposed to win. This [international game] isn’t our game. This isn’t the way we play. This is an adjustment for every guy on the roster.
Lowe also inquired about the fourth-year head coach’s relationship with Kings All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, who flew into Sacramento to meet Joerger following his introductory press conference. “We’ve had a good beginning to our relationship, a good start this summer. I think the Olympic experience is only going to help him.”
Divac has maintained that Cousins will be a fixture with Sacramento after a tumultuous season that led to the firing of coach George Karl. Has the Olympic experience helped Cousins mature? Divac is banking on that. “[The Olympics] helps international guys but it also helps NBA guys,” Divac said. “You see a different part of basketball. They can pick up some tricks. That’s how I look at it. When I used to play, I loved playing international because it’s more freedom and more ability to improve.”
Barkley said he would have liked to see Philadelphia 76ers’ young players Ben Simmons and Nerlens Noel in the Olympics this year. “I would like to see some young guys,” Barkley said. “If we don’t win the gold medal, I don’t think it’s the end of the world. If you go back and look at the last three drafts of the NBA, I would love to see some of those guys that are not ready for the NBA. Even a young guy like a Ben Simmons, I thought he should have played. Even though he would have played for Australia, I have no idea why he didn’t play. I think he should have played for Australia. I think a young guy like a Nerlens Noel. He could’ve played in the Olympics. It would have been good for him because — I’m not saying this is bad — but instead of nothing all summer, what’s better playing against NBA players for a couple months during practice?”
Patrick Mills: Win em the right way and lose em the right way. We all really appreciated the support throughout our campaign. Disappointed to come home without a medal but can only hope that the boys and I have provided everyone in Australia with some inspiration - so that a little boy or girl will one day win their Olympic medal because of that time they watched the Boomers ???? We'll be back stronger than ever
Colangelo on Sirius XM Radio: "I did have an official when I was on the court after the gold medal award... And this individual who was up there said said, 'You know, they can't compete with you, maybe next time you should only use four players'. I bit my tongue and didn't say anything. We would like to say that we're good winners and we're not sore losers. But the point is, we're not losing. That's our intent. I'll just encourage everyone to do as good a job as they can because that's for sure what we're going to do."
Andrew Bogut: Great to be back in OZ! I want to thank all of Australia for the outstanding amount of support throughout the Olympics #boomers #rio2016 Our finish to the tournament is still hard to live with. Thats tournament basketball. I needed to lift at a crucial time and didn't.
“It was therapy for me after making a big change in my life,” Durant told The Vertical in the bowels of Carioca Arena 1 about an hour after scoring 30 points in Sunday’s 96-66 victory. “It made my life easier … I knew [a backlash] was coming. It was definitely different for me, but to come here in an environment where people accepted me and didn’t care about anything except being my buddy, that’s what I needed.”
As he walked from a joint news conference with Anthony and Krzyzewski after the game, Durant wasn’t certain if he’d return to catch Anthony at Tokyo in 2020. “I can’t say right now,” Durant told The Vertical. “I’ll be 31, going on 32 …” Overhearing the conversation, Anthony jumped in and shouted, “He’ll be playing in 2020 and 2024! I’m right. I’m right.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski thought the United States men's basketball team needed a fight song. So before starting his first practice for the 2008 Olympics as the U.S. national team head coach, he summoned Kevin Cullen, his trusted video coordinator at Duke. Cullen was tasked with putting together a video to the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But Krzyzewski didn’t want just any old cover of the national anthem. He wanted the video done over Marvin Gaye’s iconic version sung at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game.
Kyrie Irving: We did it coach. You had the vision ever since I was that skinny 17 year old you saw play lol. Thank you for the opportunity and it was an honor be apart the journey with you.
BALLUPNBA: Jimmy Butler says he'd be a better WR than Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas, gets roasted by all of Team USA 😂😭 https://t.co/fOIZ3DjxnH
"Melo's for sure the leader," Team USA sixth man Paul George offered. "He's the voice of this team." "We don't have enough time," Colangelo said of the outgoing coach, "to talk about how much he has meant to our program." Hard as it was to keep track of all the understandable praise flying around, Sunday's gold-medal dismantling of Serbia was ultimately Durant's day. He managed to trump the retiring Coach K (who leaves his post with a record of 88-1) and the record-setting Anthony (who became the first men's basketball player in Olympic history to win three golds) with a performance on par with the 30 points he uncorked in the 2012 gold-medal game in London.
Durant, at 27, is undeniably still on his upward arc, as good as he looked when it mattered most down here. But an era ended Sunday in South America for USAB. Ready or not. "I've seen both sides of it," Anthony said. "I've seen the losing side [in the 2004 Olympics in Athens] and I've seen what it feels like to win three gold medals. "I wouldn't trade that, for anything in the world."
During an emotional summer in which he left behind his first professional franchise, was (mis)cast as a villain for siding with a former enemy and found himself having to defend his character, Team USA provided a much-needed sanctuary. For nearly a month, Durant got to play the game he loves, bond with some new and old friends – and win – without sweating any manufactured controversies or external second-guessing. “It was therapy for me after making a big change in my life,” Durant told The Vertical in the bowels of Carioca Arena 1 about an hour after scoring 30 points in Sunday’s 96-66 victory. “It made my life easier … I knew [a backlash] was coming. It was definitely different for me, but to come here in an environment where people accepted me and didn’t care about anything except being my buddy, that’s what I needed.”
Durant doesn’t like to admit it, but he is sensitive to negative perceptions, and has had to adjust to criticism from fans in Oklahoma City who once cheered him and others who were disappointed that he decided to form a super team with players who eliminated him from the postseason in a heated seven-game series. “I can’t let anybody steal my joy,” Durant said while crediting the presence of Team USA and former Oklahoma City assistant Monty Williams with developing that approach. “Monty Williams used to tell me that every day: don’t let anybody steal my joy. I get joy when I’m out there playing and it went to another level just playing alongside these great players and playing under Coach K and his staff. I focused on that. All that noise around me kind of quieted down.”
Bogut also blasted the the call that saw him fouled out, accusing Spain’s Ricky Rubio of taking a “Superman dive”. “The referees bought it, as usual,” Bogut said. “They’ll look back at the tape and see how obviously bad they were “When you blatantly dive into someone and fall over, that’s a tough way to play. I don’t blame Spain. If the referees are calling it, you keep doing it.”
Draymond Green: The MOBB!!! Man it's been an amazing 5 weeks with these dudes. We came together as 12 individuals majority being from different teams. We leave Rio with the Gold and a brotherhood that will last a lifetime! Thankful and Blessed for the opportunity!! #TeamUSA #Goldenproblems
Kyrie Irving: This gold medal officially caps off my whole year and I couldn't be more fatigued and happy at the same time lol, but it was all worth it. Azurie, Dad, Asia, London, this one if definitely for y'all. Love you guys till the moon and back, forever and ever. Another step in the journey. Go USA!!
Carmelo Anthony: Live in a way that is full of life for yourself, for your loved ones, for your friends. People who do so will find the courage to transform sufferings into hopes. Not only that, but they will be able to light the lamp of hope in the hearts of many others, as well. #StayMe7o
Krzyzewski, 69, will hand the reins to San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich as he leaves Team USA after nearly 11 years and with a 24-0 record in the Olympics. "I've been really a lucky guy, collegiately and internationally to be part of championship teams," said Krzyzewski, commonly called "Coach K." "I'm just proud of the fact that Jerry Colangelo when he took over, he gave me an opportunity," said Krzyzewski, who modestly deflected any credit for his success and instead praised veterans like team captain Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.
When asked by an international reporter about the margin of victory in the finale, Jerry Colangelo — the former NBA executive and owner who rehabilitated the national program in 2005 — made it quite clear that he wasn’t about to apologize for the one-sided outcome. “I’m all for raising the bar for global basketball,” he began. “The more interest in basketball on all levels, I’m for. I’m a lifer in the game. I love the game. Basketball is the No. 2 sport in the world, (but) we just need to see these other countries get their acts together and become more competitive.
“I’d love to see that. Everyone would love to see that. I’m not going to be making excuses for anyone about our (dominance). Someone said to me (after the game), one of the officials said to me, ‘You know next time you play, you ought to play with four.’ And I said, ‘No, maybe the other teams better get their act together and compete.’ ”
They needed the scoring machine from the 2010 FIBA World Cup and 2012 London Olympics. But Durant was concerned with making sure other players involved. It was one of those situations where being too unselfish is a detriment to the team. U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski pulled video from that the 2010 World Cup — 33 points against Russia, 28 against Lithuania and 28 against Turkey. “He told me, ‘I want to see that guy again,’ ” Durant said.
In the final three games of the tournament, he averaged 23.4 points and shot 55.6% from the field and 55% on three-pointers. “Just woke up I guess," Durant said. "My teammates were supporting me (and) cheering me on along the way. Everybody was encouraging me. I just went out there and had fun with the game. When I’m smiling and screaming and beating my chest and showing emotion, that’s when I’m lost in the game. I got away from that a couple of games. “When the knockout round came … I just tried to go out there and be who I am. Coaches told me to be me. I went out there and did that.”
As he said in the press conference after the game according to the Spanish news agency EFE: “I do not know how I will process all of this. I love to play in the national team of my country and I feel something special. It’s very special. I’ll do everything I can but I will not be rigid in any thing that has to do with the national team. There is a lot of talent and I love being on top of the tournaments. As times goes by, I will have to leave and when the time comes I’ll do it. It’s part of my career. I can not ask for anything more. All of this is a gift and I’ll play any time I can. It will be an honor. I’m having fun”.
According to the Spanish news agency EFE, the Italian coach who is the most succesful coach in the history of the Spanish national team stressed the fact that “in a complicated tournament from the beggining” the team found its way: “This team and the players to come and the Spanish sport in general owes a lot to the veteran players on our team and those who have left in previous years. They have changed the way we see elite sport in our country. I found a great sport but low in competitiveness when I came to Spain. They have managed to cultivate ambition and self confidence”. Speaking about the tournament, he added: “We are happy and proud of this achievement. This medal is the ultimate conquest of any professional engaged in sports. I thank my players for the attitude and composure in a difficult time. It was a difficult year, a difficult tournament with two defeats at the start, which is unusual. We recovered, we stood up and we could reach our goal, achieving a medal”.
Here's a transcription of Melo's interview: We fought. It wasn't always pretty. We came together July 17, and we all committed for this reason. It was a special moment for me. I know this is the end. This is it for me. I committed to something .... I committed to this in '04. I've seen the worst and I've seen the best. I stuck with it, we stuck with it. I'm here today, three gold medals later. I'm excited for me, but also for the other guys who have never experienced anything like this. Coach K, myself, Jerry Colangelo and everybody else who have been a part of this since I've been here. I just want to say thank you for allowing me to be one of the leaders, not just of our team but of the country. Despite everything that's going on right now in our country, we got to be united. I'm glad I did what I did, I stepped up the challenge but this is what it's about. Representing our country on the biggest stage you can be on. America will be great again, I believe that. We got a lot of work to do but one step at a time. I'm glad we represented it in the fashion that we did.
Nikola Mirotic: Yesterday we were opponents, today friends, tomorrow teammates in @chicagobulls Congratulations!
Gary Washburn: DeMarcus Cousins on Serbian GM Vlade Divac: "He talked trash to me after the first game. He was real quiet today." #Kings #Rio2016
Yao Ming: Eight years later, my country was hosting the Summer Games in Beijing. I wasn’t a kid anymore. I was the leader of our team. Three days before the opening ceremony, we played an exhibition game against Russia. Andrei Kirilenko was playing for them at the time. We had a terrible game. Nothing was working. After the game, Donnie Nelson, the general manager for the Mavericks and an advisor to the head coach of the Chinese national team, came into our locker room, outraged. “If you guys are going to play like that, maybe you shouldn’t go to your own Olympics!” he said.
Yao Ming: Beijing was an incredibly proud moment for me and for my country, but whenever someone talks about the Olympics, my mind still goes back to the picture from Sydney. I’m a fan of astronomy. When I look at that photo, of all those athletes, it reminds me of a galaxy. Before my first trip to the Olympics in 2000, I was really just focused on myself, my family and my team. I had a very small circle. At age 20, I looked at the photo and just wanted to find myself, one individual, in that galaxy. All these years later, I see a different circle, a much bigger one — one that we’re all part of. Even at my height, I’m the same size as everyone else in that photo. It makes me realize just how small I was — how small we all are.
They weren’t the Dream Team, or even the Redeem Team – not even close. But by the time Team USA’s 96-66 win against Serbia was complete on Sunday and the mission for the third consecutive gold medal was complete, only one thing mattered more than all the comparisons that always inevitably come: this team kept the Team USA reputation intact.
Twelve years after their bronze finish in the Athens Games sparked so much change in the national program, and a decade after a bronze finish in the FIBA World Championship in Japan had Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure as Team USA coach off to an inauspicious start, their run of perfection continues. With the win, Team USA — this 2016 version that was led by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and all the rest — has won 52 consecutive games in FIBA play (24 in the Olympics). In a rematch of their Aug. 12 pool play game in which they won by just three points, Team USA wasted little time pulling away in this one. After leading by one late in the first quarter, they finished the first half on a 36-14 run and led 52-29 at halftime.
Constructing a team of players who have never featured in an Olympics with the parameters of eligibilty, age, USA Basketball ties and position, Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver projects Lillard as one of three point guards to represent the red, white and blue in Tokyo. Writes Golliver: "After missing out in 2014, Portland’s two-time All-Star was out of consideration for Rio, and then back in, and then out again, citing a foot ailment when all was said and done. While Lillard’s volume three-point shooting is his biggest strength, his familiarity playing on and off the ball would be a nice asset if he shared a roster with both [Stephen] Curry and [John] Wall. Lillard’s off-criticized defense and his redundancy with Curry might lead to some fit questions, but he’s one of the few proven All-Star talents without Olympic experience who will still be under 30 in 2020."
In a subsequent interview with USA TODAY Sports, James said, "It would be pretty amazing to be able to actually play for the greatest NBA coach of all time." Krzyzewski will coach his final game for USA in Sunday’s gold medal game against Serbia, and Popovich, the San Antonio Spurs’ coach, will take over for the next Olympic cycle.
“First off all Coach K and Gregg Popovich are two my favorites of all time," James said. "To be able to play for Coach K in the Olympics and world championships and to be able to go against Coach Pop in the NBA, it would be a treat. Obviously my body has to continue to be in the form that it is today four years from now."
Jorge Sierra: With his bronze in Rio, Pau Gasol now has 10 medals (including four golds) in 13 FIBA competitions with Spain. hoopshype.com/social/item/78…
Gasol, who will spend next season in San Antonio and hasn't committed to playing at Tokyo in 2020, and his teammates celebrated by piling on top of each other near center court. This wasn't the medal they wanted, but after losing their first two games in Brazil, it beats nothing. "Unbelievable," said Rudy Fernandez. "It's an amazing feeling. We played very bad at first in the tournament, but we just continued to play hard and with a medal, it's unbelievable."
The Aussies simply lowered their heads. Another close call. Another disappointment. As upset as he was at losing, Bogut was equally angry about the officiating. "They fall over and get fouls and go to the free throw line the whole game," he said. "It's unbelievable. You just dive into guys recklessly and get calls like that. It's tough to play like that."
“We got the bronze, but they deserve it, too, because they had a great tournament,” said Spain’s Victor Claver. And Australia certainly did, in fact it was their best Olympic finish in 14 appearances, and it was a shame that they missed out by a fraction. “Just heartbroken, it’s tough,” Australia’s David Andersen said, not mincing his words.
Nikola Mirotic helped Spain get off to a strong start with eight points in the first quarter. He injured his right knee in a collision with Aron Baynes early in the fourth, but returned after a brief stint on the bench and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Afterward, Mirotic said the initial injury scared him “a lot,” saying the collision was “very strong, knees against knees.”
“But it was the last five minutes of the tournament,” he continued. “I didn’t want to miss that opportunity to play. I was hot in that moment too, so I didn’t feel a lot of pain. Right now, I’m feeling hurt. But it’s OK. We won the medal. That’s the most important thing. Hopefully, this is nothing. I need to do some tests now and I expect it’s all good.”
After the U.S. men’s basketball team finished practice on Tuesday, Klay Thompson rushed out of the gym to catch up with Schmidt and take a photo. “He’s a great icon for basketball,” Thompson said. “I look up to him. He’s a great shooter and a great player.”
He is the Olympics' all-time leading scorer (1,093 points), the leader for most points at one Olympics (338 at the 1988 Seoul Olympics) and has four of the top-five highest single-game scoring records – 55 against Spain, 46 against the Soviet Union, 46 and against Puerto Rico in 1988 and 45 against Puerto Rico in 1996 when he was 38 years old. In 1988, he averaged 42.2 points in eight games. All that scoring earned him the nickname Mao Santa – Holy Hand. “Because I played too much,” Schmidt said when asked to explain his scoring.
Asked about his favorite Olympic moment, he didn’t talk about one of his 40-point games. He recalled a missed baseline jumper near the end of Brazil’s 110-105 quarterfinal loss to the Soviet Union. A made would’ve tied the game. “At that Olympics in Seoul, I felt we could win the Olympics,” Schmidt said. “I missed that shot and that shot remains here.” He pointed to his head. “Not just because we lost the opportunity but because our coach was fired,” he said.
Many of Voigt’s players paid for their own flights (and most flew coach) and accommodations. Playing for Team Nigeria is a complete commitment, and Voigt, who is no longer under contract, is hoping that the country will invest more money into the basketball program. “It’s pretty well known we didn’t receive any support. We did this on our own,” Voigt said. “We’ve faced hardships as a team that other teams in our group couldn’t even fathom. The fact that they can get here and be as competitive as they were, I think it speaks volumes to them. “Just something as simple as having food for our players and having a flight to where they’re going and having insurance for our top players may be a huge swing in terms of what we do. I’m just trying to catch my breath, to be honest. We understand that’s not necessarily where the country is right now, but even the smallest level of support can reap huge rewards for what we can do.”
Anthony has been criticized for his inability to capture an NBA championship – and the failings of the New York Knicks in recent years – but didn’t hesitate when asked hypothetically if he would trade all of his medals for one ring in the league. “I wouldn’t trade, hopefully my three gold medals, in for nothing,” Anthony told The Vertical. “I hope I’m never put in that position. That’s a tough position. But I always say, ‘Winning is winning is winning.’ No matter what level you win on. Hopefully, I do get an NBA ring, but that’s two things. … I wouldn’t try to compare or force myself to make that comparison.”
Team USA had taken enough of a hit back home, but Anthony absorbed an unfair portion of the blame in Greece for someone who rarely played. Because he did a poor job of hiding his frustration, he was often captured after practices shirtless instead of covered in USA Basketball gear – and coach Larry Brown had no problem singling him out – Anthony’s behavior was interpreted as someone who didn’t want to be there, and hadn’t bought into the program. It was a tough spot for any kid – especially a barely 20-year-old who had just finished his first season in the NBA. Anthony was hurt, misunderstood and always knew that he wasn’t going out like that. “It left a bitter taste in my mouth,” Anthony told The Vertical. “I’ve always owned up to whatever it was. Even if it wasn’t my fault, I always take the onus on my shoulders and roll with the punches. But that’s what makes this situation much better.”
Duke University coach Krzyzewski, better known as "Coach K," was chosen and the results have been spectacular -- an 87-1 record entering Sunday's gold medal game against Serbia, the only loss coming to Greece in a 2006 World Championships semi-final. "I've learned so much," Krzyzewski said. "I've learned from my players. I've learned from the international community. I've learned about the beauty of international play. Over the last 11 years I've gotten better as a result of being given the honour of coaching, so it has been a beautiful thing for me."
“I really wanted to play (on this team),” Jordan said. “If I didn’t, then I would have worked my (expletive) off in the summer and got ready for the (NBA) season. But when the opportunity came, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m down. I’m going. I’m playing.’ “From the journey that I’ve had in this league, from being a second-round pick (out of Texas A&M in 2008), falling in the draft, not playing a lot my first two years and then finally playing a little bit, and kind of coming up short a little bit each year. But this is cool to be one of the 12 guys to represent the whole country on the basketball court.”
When asked if he felt that Spain had just squandered its best-ever chance to finally beat the United States in the Olympics for the first time in 12 tries -- even with brother Marc Gasol absent through injury -- Pau didn't hesitate. "I think so," Pau said. "That's just the way I feel. I don't think they are playing as well as other times they have played [in the Olympics]. They're still a very talented team individually. I just feel like if we would have been a lot sharper with our shots, move the ball a little better, if we would have boxed out a little more ... then you're talking about a whole different story."
Spain has long been a viable threat, having made it difficult for the U.S. to claim gold in the previous two Olympics. But Friday’s game wasn’t quite the same serious threat without Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, and with Pau Gasol and the rest of that team’s core getting older. Even with Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic in foul trouble, the Americans could never pull away comfortably. They were never in danger of losing but the killer instinct – the desire to dominate – was lacking. Pau Gasol felt Spain squandered its best chance to defeat the U.S. “They are not playing as well as other times they’ve played,” Pau Gasol said after the loss, “but they are still a very talented team individually.”
Coach K expected a game against Spain down the road, but compared to the previous two Olympic Games finals, this was a different animal: “We knew when we first started training camp that there was a great, great chance that we were going to play Spain at some point. We’ve had some great, great games against Spain, some unbelievably competitive games. We expected the same today and we got it. It was a different type of a game. It was a very hard game and both teams had to … it wasn’t easy flowing, and both teams had to make big plays. I thought our guys did that a little bit more than they did, and that’s why we won. DeAndre (Jordan) was huge, 16 rebounds, but also Pau’s a great player and not that he, no one’s going to stop him, but he made him work all the time. Getting the rebounds were amazing, and then Klay played the most minutes he’s played and came through. I thought Kyle Lowry just gave us a huge spark, so I’m really proud of my team. That was the most different game I’ve coached internationally for the United States. It was just a real different game today”.
And that had also to do with the decisions of the referees. Krzyzewski also addressed this matter: “It was a different atmosphere in there tonight. Those are three of the top officials in international basketball. We’ve had them in big games and I’d want them again. They’re really good. Whatever was happening there, they felt they had to take control. But it became very sensitive, in other words, you better not say or even ask a question. I thought what they did at the start of the second half in bringing the coaches and the captains together, we just said, “let’s play basketball.” I thought the second half was much better. It’s their game. They know what they’re doing and we have to adjust to it. It made it a different atmosphere, let’s put it that way. And for both teams. That’s why I’m really proud of my team”.
And the biggest question for him is this is his last tournament with the national team. It seems that he has not decided yet if he will retire or not: “I always think it’s going to be my last year, both in the national team and in my NBA team. I love this sport and I love to continue playing at the highest level. The older I become the more complicated it will be for me to be back but I still play at a good level. I would be 40 years old in the next Olympic Games and I’ve been already many games for many years. During next season I’ll assess how I feel and if I will play with the national team or not. Things can change pretty quick”
Despite the defeat by USA, Spain still has the goal of the bronze medal and Pau Gasol is ready to go. As he said after the end of the game: “An Olympic medal is an Olympic medal, no if it’s bronze, so we will fight for it”. For the semifinal result and his condition in the game he added: “I played strong and intense. I tried to give everything and I did not feel 100% ready but I’m happy that I have played”.
John Schuhmann: Kyle Lowry: "Aren't you the one who said we were going to lose?" Me: "If you didn't start playing better." I think they did.
Just as with Team USA, the Warriors will undoubtedly prefer a Durant who is willing to defer but doesn’t detour much from what makes him special. So once again, USA Basketball can serve as the springboard for the next approaching hurdle. This preliminary exam for the next phase of his NBA career will only be passed with a gold medal. “I know if I go out there and be who I am, the outcome will dictate itself,” Durant said. “Because I know I put the work in. I love the game. I study the game. So if I go out there and let that stuff take over instead of me getting in my own way mentally, good results will come out of it. I’m not saying I don’t care about winning and losing. Obviously, I prepare the right way. I work hard and I love playing the game with my teammates, but I can’t overthink the game too much.”
The U.S. pulled away to win 118-107 in Beijing, then fought off an even fiercer challenge in London, winning 107-100. And when the Spanish opened this tournament with two straight losses, it was easy to think they wouldn't get another shot at the Americans. Spain never discounted its chances. Neither did the U.S. "We've always felt Spain, they'd have a gold-medal chance, and why wouldn't we think that?" U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "The last two gold-medal games we've played were against them and they were great, great games."
"I never said they were too old. I never said any of those things. Other people are making comments. All we've said is we have great respect for them," said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, adding that Spain was one of the models he looked at when he took over the program in 2005. Added Krzyzewski: "They show up and they show up big time."
His mother, Tona, was certainly one of them. The point guard spent all of last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves watching from afar as Tona's body slowly succumbed to lung cancer, and there were times that he wondered if he should be playing at all. "Sometimes at night during the season I was going through hell," Rubio told The Associated Press as Spain prepared for a showdown with the United States in the Rio Olympics semifinals Friday. "Waking up in, who knows, Sacramento, in LA, in the middle of the night alone in a hotel and thinking, 'Why am I here? Is it really worth it?'"
Rubio has always looked forward to playing for the Spanish national team. He started practicing with them at 16 and sees his teammates as a surrogate family that helped raise him from a child prodigy into a trusted veteran. But when Tona passed, Rubio thought long and hard about pulling out of Rio to be with his father and two siblings back in Spain. "At one point when everything happened, you think what's the best?" Rubio said. "Stay with your family? Stay back home? Or sacrifice one more time everything for one goal, which is the gold medal, and dedicate it to her."
September 26, 2021 | 8:50 pm EDT Update
Adam Zagoria: Kyrie Irving is expected at Nets’ media day Monday, per league sources. We’ll see how it plays out as he’s likely to face a lot of vaccination-related questions in the wake of the @RollingStone story.
Arash Markazi: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Talen Horton-Tucker are in a suite for today’s Rams-Buccaneers game. pic.twitter.com/2b0bmLPw6V
September 26, 2021 | 6:21 pm EDT Update
Shams Charania: The Los Angeles Lakers are planning to sign two-way guard Austin Reaves to a new two-year contract, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Reaves converted to a standard NBA contract, becomes Lakers‘ 14th roster spot.