The loss last week in Australia wasn’t a picnic and the players had to go from answering questions about all the stars who aren’t with them to explaining how they ended their 78-game win streak. The cheer, for now, remains. “You have to enjoy being with people in order to feel responsible for them,” Popovich said. “To be accountable to each other, you have to have some sort of empathetic bond. You have to love each other to a degree.”
Ben Anderson: Luis Scola got an extended standing ovation from everyone in the Olympic Arena including Joe Ingles and the Australian National Team as the 2004 gold medalist will likely see his international career come to an end.
Ben Golliver: Argentina, Australia and a few hundred spectators salute Luis Scola with a standing ovation as he checks out of Olympic quarterfinal. Scola just completed his fifth Olympics at age 41. pic.twitter.com/nxoQgpV0zF
The Americans’ path to a fourth consecutive gold was going to be arduous at best and, more likely, treacherous, which bore out in an Olympics-opening loss to France. And it was there when Team USA fell down by 10 in the second quarter of an elimination game Tuesday to Spain, an aging team that is nevertheless the defending World Cup champions. “We started to panic a little bit,” Draymond Green admitted.
By now, the explanations and excuses are worn. New team. Short training camp. Three players at the NBA Finals. Greater continuity for other countries. COVID-19 took Bradley Beal off the roster. Injuries kept other stars out. The Americans are two wins from overcoming all of it. “As we started to practice a bit more, and going through those losses, we started to understand our roles a bit more and coach started to understand the rotation,” Durant said. “I think you mix all of that in the pot, you start to build a real team. That’s what I feel like we are at this point.”
Michael Jordan, who is indisputably the focus of the series, told Australian Story he regrets that Longley was left out. “I can understand why Australia would say, ‘Well, why wouldn’t we include Luc?’ And we probably should have. And if I look back and could change anything, that’s probably what I would have changed.” Last year, series director Jason Hehir explained that Longley’s omission was about budget and logistics. It was simply too expensive to send a crew from the US to interview him in the remote corner of Western Australia where he lives. “I didn’t expect to be a heavy feature in it because they hadn’t interviewed me, but I did expect to be in it more than I was,” Longley says.
An unfortunate consequence of Longley’s omission from The Last Dance is that his importance to the Bulls has been undervalued. He was, after all, the starting centre — part of the core group of five players who would begin each game. “He had the skill set, you know,” Jordan says. “He could shoot, he was very smart, good passer. He knew how to position himself well.” Longley was the ultimate team player, someone who was willing to sacrifice individual glory for team performance. “I cared about my teammates more than I cared about winning,” he says. “Winning became how to reward them, so that’s part of what drove me to be good.”
He hosted barbecues at his house and made lasting personal friendships with players such as Kerr and Pippen. A less likely friendship, however, was the one that he formed with the mercurial Rodman. “Dennis was so far outside of our monoculture of basketball that I was intrigued by that,” Longley says. “I felt like I sat outside the sort of the stereotypical basketball frame and Dennis did too. So I was attracted to him. And I think he’s probably attracted to me.”
“I love Dennis,” says Longley’s former wife Kelly. “He used to come play Barbies with the girls. He’s a great fellow. Great guy.” “I tended to roll with Dennis a bit after the game and ended up in some places that I wouldn’t have otherwise ended up in, which I’ve put in the life experience bag,” Longley says. “He was a fantastic hang for me.”