Basketball observers say the players don’t seem to be…

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No one would dare suggest that the Popovich legacy is riding on a turnaround in Tokyo, but these next 10 or so days likely amount to his last shot to rewrite some of the eyesore chapters of a mostly storybook journey. "We'll win the gold medal," Don Nelson, another longtime Popovich friend and fan like Brown, said over the phone the other day. "He'll figure it out,” Nelson said.
In 2012, with arguably the greatest Olympic basketball team ever, the Americans averaged 115.5 points. Durant was on that team with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. In 2008, Team USA averaged 106.2 points per game, and in 2016, the Durant-led USAB averaged 109.9 points. Previous World Cup teams were equally proficient scorers. But it’s fallen off the map since Popovich took over, and at least publicly no one seems to want to address why. As The Athletic reported Monday morning, players were visibly and audibly frustrated after losing to France, lamenting that they were running the “Spurs’ offense,” or a system that, in the opinion of the players logging the complaint, seemed to limit scoring ability.
“We know how to play with each other, we know how to make the right pass, and nobody here is expecting to lead the team in shot attempts,” Durant said. “We know we have guys that can catch and shoot the basketball. “The teams I played on, the last two or three teams, I might have 30 one night and I might have 20 the next night. … Nobody came in saying we’re going to start the game off giving the ball to Kobe or me or Bron. We have guys that have high IQ, and whatever is presented to us, we adapt.”
As he further explained, he enjoys “being a star” in Tokyo. “It is a very special day for Slovenia,” said Doncic about the nation’s Olympic debut as adapted by Marca, a game in which he was only seven points away from tying the scoring record in the Olympics held by Oscar Schmidt (55 points). Despite this huge feat, Doncic takes it day by day. “I don’t care about the records, we wanted a victory and that’s what we came for”. “I like being a star of the Games; I feel good to be one of the stars if I am”, said Doncic, who also joked about the photos taken in the Olympic Village. “I’m taking a lot of photos, yes, there could be more, although the one with the most photos is Djokovic”.
Gigantes del Basket: Someone has a message for Luka Doncic. Oscar Schmidt: "I hope you break my record"
Dwain Price: And the final score is: Slovenia 118, Argentina 100. In his Olympic debut Luka finished with 48-11-5. He was 18-of-29 from the floor and 6-of-14 from downtown. In other words, Luka shopped for the groceries, cooked the food and ate up everything. He was the top chef tonight.#Mavs
Serbia’s Dusan Bulut, “the 3x3 GOAT,” hesitated too. “Five-on-five players come to 3x3, they need some period of adjustment,” Bulut said. Indeed, when asked if NBA players could come in and waltz to gold, the prevailing opinion expressed among 3x3 stars was: not so fast. Sometimes partly in jest, sometimes genuinely. “I don't think every 5-on-5 player will adjust quickly to 3x3,” Dominique Jones, the top American player in FIBA’s world rankings, told Yahoo Sports. “It's not just you coming up and playing, and you're just gonna beat one of the top teams.”
Ryan Ward: Team USA Basketball remains the favorite to win gold in Tokyo after today’s loss to France, according to @SportsBettingAG : USA -300, Australia +800, Spain +900, France +1100, Slovenia +1800, Italy +2500, Argentina +3300, Nigeria +4000
To be clear, Popovich is horrified by his own record coaching this team. He dwells on it and hates the losing. The players are frustrated, too, grumbling on their way back to the locker room about “running the San Antonio offense” when apparently they feel like there are better ideas. Pop has said, because of the truncated nature of Team USA’s training camp, the offense would be based on “concepts” instead of set plays.
"I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it's not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start," said Lillard, who was just 3-of-10 shooting and had two hurtful turnovers late in the game. "I think that's why a lot of people will make it seem like the end of the world, but our job as professionals and this team and representing our country at the Olympics, we've got to do what's necessary and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish."
The Americans now will likely have to win their final two pool play games against Iran and Czech Republic to advance to the medal round. They could technically advance on scoring margin if they lose another game, however. "We were just trying too hard to do the right thing," Lillard said. "Instead of just being who we are -- the best players in the NBA."
“People shouldn’t be surprised that the French team or the Australian team or the Spanish team or the Lithuanian team… It doesn’t matter who it is — the gap in talent shrinks every year, as there are more and more great players all over the world. And you need to give the French team credit for playing well, they were more consistent than we were at both ends of the court. It’s as simple as that,” coach Popovich said while explaining why France’s two wins over the USA in the last two games aren’t a surprise.
Tim Legler on USA's loss: "You don't have great role definition on this team... It's sort of a 'my turn, your turn' type of philosophy offensively. When the talent discrepancy is not nearly as great as it used to be, you're gonna run into some problems."
“I’m rooting for Coach Popovich and the U.S. Team,’’ Ewing told The Post in an emailed interview. “It’s an unfortunate time we’re living in right now — losing players to COVID-19 protocols. It’s harder to play now because of the Dream Team. All of the current players grew up looking up to us and watching us dominate the rest of the world. But the rest of the world caught up. “There are so many talented players. Some of the NBA’s top players today come from all over the world. It wasn’t like that back then.’’
StatMuse: Team USA had scored below 80 points only once in the last 56 Olympic games since 1992. They scored 76 points today on 36/31/76% shooting.
Ben Golliver: France's Evan Fournier after beating USA Basketball in Tokyo Olympic opener: "They are better individually but they can be beaten as a team."
Gary Washburn: Evan Fournier said he does not see the Olympic tournament as a type of free-agent showcase for himself, said he isn't thinking about free agency. "I'm completely here" (with France). #Celtics #Tokyo2020
Joe Vardon: The Americans' 25-game Olympic winning streak is over. They lose in pool play for the first time since 2004, falling 82-76 to France (again!) in the tournament opener for both teams. Evan Fournier killed TUSA with 28 points. USAB is 6-3 under Pop. More to come @The Athletic.
Jorge Sierra: First Olympic loss for Team USA since falling to Argentina in 2004. Lamar Odom led the U.S. with 14 points and LeBron James played three minutes in that game ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Jorge Sierra: All-Stars at the Games through the years 1992: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1996: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 2000: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 2004: ⭐⭐⭐ 2008: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 2012: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 2016: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 2021: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Of course, no All-Star before 1992. That's all of the teams combined, not just Team USA. The tournament Team USA lost is the one that featured the least star power.
The Boomers, who had 21 turnovers of their own and shot at 39 per cent from the field, were also let off the hook by Nigeria's poor 12-of-24 free throw shooting. "The areas of concern for us in the game were expected; we were choppy in the half-court ... and the flow of the game we made a lot of poor decisions," Goorjian said. "But this group ... we've focused on defence and I thought that was good and got better and was the reason for the victory."
Joe Vardon: The Australians made easy work of Nigeria, 84-65. A sloppy game but the Boomers dominated. Patty Mills led all scorers with 25 points, while Dante Exum and Joe Ingles added 11 points each. Next up, USA-France in less than two hours.
Joe Vardon: Pretty remarkable: Tokyo Olympic officials would not allow Nigeria’s assistant coaches into the Olympic Village when the team arrived Friday. As a result, the team had to hold a players only practice Saturday.
Marc Stein: Juancho Hernangomez has been removed from Spain’s Olympic roster at the Timberwolves’ behest as Hernangomez recovers from a separated shoulder. Statement from Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas:
Dane Moore: Rosas on his ruling that Juancho Hernangomez won’t play in Olympics: “Juancho needs time to recover from and rehabilitate his injury, and that timeline restricts Juancho’s availability to participate in the Tokyo Olympics. The determined recovery plan is the best path forward.”
In the past 18 months since Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, Gasol no longer could lean on a trusted teammate and friend as he did when they won two NBA championships with the Lakers (2009, 2010). Still, Gasol could still rely on his own memories with how Bryant overcame injuries. “I kept him in mind a lot of the days to say hey, ‘Kobe would be pushing himself,’” Gasol told USA TODAY Sports. “Kobe would not be taking this workout easy or not skipping anything. He would be really disciplined, trusting and being committed to the work. He’s always a big presence with me. He’s always going to be an inspiration and motivation in my life.”
His role did not mirror what he experienced during his first stint with FC Barcelona. Yet, Gasol considered it “very special” that he played in limited minutes at the end of the season and helped the team win another La Liga title. Gasol will try to do the same for the Spanish national team, which he called “a very good team.” Still, Gasol predicted “the competition is going to be fierce,” which could include Team USA even if a handful of stars have abstained following the compressed NBA season. “They are a very talented team,” Gasol said of Team USA. “You have to play your best on both ends of the floor and take them out of your game. That’s what we will try to do. That’s against any team, but that’s against the best teams even more. So we’ll see if our paths cross.”
Tim Reynolds: Juancho Hernangomez, who was ruled out of the Olympics by Spain with a dislocated shoulder, then was put back on the Olympic roster ... is now officially out of the Olympics because of the shoulder. Spain is replacing him with Xabi Lopez-Arostegui.
Per Eurohoops, “Juancho wants to play in the Olympic Games, but Juancho won’t be able to play,” Garbajosa said in a statement. “We’ve had countless medical meetings and we’ve never received a ‘no’. We have a received a ‘yes’. We don’t have a problem with the [Minnesota Timberwolves] or the NBA. It’s a problem of people – not medical personnel – who have personally decided that Juancho couldn’t play. I’m talking about their president of basketball operations [Gersson Rosas].
“Four hours before the game against USA, there was a meeting between the doctors of the national team and the doctors of the Timberwolves franchise who congratulated Juancho and the national team on the recovery,” Garbajosa said. “The answer about whether Juancho could play was a ‘yes’ and that the next evaluation will be after the Olympics. From that moment until Minnesota told us that he won’t play, there were a series of facts that showed that the decision isn’t of medical nature. Even the Timberwolves coach congratulated Juancho for being in Tokyo. No one doubted that he could play.”
Willy Hernangomez: #FreeJuancho FFG 🌟
Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were scheduled to arrive in Japan on a private G6 jet around 11 p.m. Saturday, less than 24 hours before Team USA opens Olympic play against France in a vital game out of gate. It's a brutal travel day after an exhausting playoff stretch that will test their mental and physical stamina. It also won the extreme respect of their American teammates. "I have a lot of respect for those guys for not only committing to do this but actually keeping their word," Team USA forward Draymond 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."
It is unclear how much coach Gregg Popovich can rely on the three to play, but he indicated his plan is to use them against the French, who project to be the toughest matchup the Americans will face in a pool-play round that also includes games against Iran and the Czech Republic. "We obviously know they're in shape. They're tired. They just went through a roller coaster of emotion," Team USA guard Zach LaVine said. "I think they'll be ready to go, and we'll see what happens. But as for the team, I think we need to be ready for everything. If they're not ready to go, then we have to go out there and perform still."
LaVine, who started the final exhibition games, said he feels fine from a basketball and conditioning standpoint after his brief stay in quarantine. The games start for real now, pushing him to his preferred mode of competitor. “We know how good they are,” LaVine said of France. “But we also know how good we are too. We went over the film and understand what they do. But I think we’re more focused on what we do. Because if we do what we do good, I don’t think there’s any team out here that’s going to come close to us.”
Argentina’s captain is about to play in the Olympics for a fifth time, those appearances spanning three different decades. There are athletes at the Tokyo Games who were not even born — one was five years from being born — when Scola won a gold medal in Athens 17 years ago. Yes, he’s been around for a while. And there’s the genesis of that daily wish. “For the love of God, please, please, please — this is what I tell myself every morning in the mirror — please do not look old,” Scola said. “That’s all I want.”
“Luis is a wonderful human being,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. “Obviously, he loves basketball. He’s been playing it for so long. It’s a group of guys, you know, for the last 10 or 15 years, 20 years, whatever it is, they are very close. They love the game, they’ve been a great example of international basketball and Luis is the epitome of that. And I can only continue to be amazed at his love of the game, his love of his teammates, and how much he wants to lead and be there. He and their program are special.”
The trio of players making the unprecedented jump from the NBA Finals to the Olympics are all scheduled to be in Japan by Saturday. The hope is for Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to be available when Team USA opens play Sunday against France, according to coach Gregg Popovich. After attending the Milwaukee Bucks' championship parade Thursday, Middleton and Holiday are scheduled to fly to Seattle on Friday. There, they will join Booker, whose Phoenix Suns they helped eliminate on Tuesday, and take a private plane to Tokyo.
But with an expected tough test against the French, Popovich is planning on using his reinforcements immediately, even if he's not sure how it will play out. "I have no idea [how to use them]. I'm not trying to be glib. I'm trying to be transparent," Popovich said. "Maybe they'll be OK for the game [Sunday] and it'll hit them two days later. Maybe we should play them in the first half and see what they're like."
Nigeria’s Olympic men’s basketball team made headlines when it upset Team USA in an exhibition game on July 10. While the majority of the players on Nigeria’s roster are American-born or immigrated to the United States as young children, there is one major exception: Miami Heat forward Precious Achiuwa. “It’s big for me to have ‘Nigeria’ on my jersey,” Achiuwa, 21, recently told The Undefeated. “I’m the only NBA player on this team that was actually not only born in Nigeria, but grew up in Nigeria.”
Brian Robb: Jayson Tatum on missing out on teaming up with Bradley Beal at Olympics: "I was upset...Unfortunately, it's not going to be able to happen but looking forward to competing out here and winning a gold medal and making sure we have an extra one for him."
The Jump: "I can't wait to join them. We're up against a tough field" —@Khris Middleton on possibly getting gold in the Olympics #TheJump
Marc J. Spears: USA Basketball Team member Zach LaVine has cleared USA Basketball's health and safety protocols and will join the USA team in Tokyo Thursday afternoon. LaVine, who went into USA Basketball's health and safety protocols Monday and did not travel with the team to Tokyo.
Was it an easy decision for you when the time came to play in the Olympics, or was it something you had to think about a bit? Other players had some understandable reservations with the short offseason and the condensed season. After all, your season with the Wizards just ended a few weeks ago. Beal: Yes and no. Like I said earlier, I'm very meticulous about my training. It's always been the same the past few offseasons. I usually take like a month, or two, off and really rest my body because I'm playing a lot of minutes during the year. So that did weigh into the decision, but, ultimately, this has always been my dream. I've always been a part of USA basketball, and I didn't get to go to the World Cup in 2019 because of the birth of my son. And then now this decision wasn't easy either because I actually missed one of my older brother's weddings. So, I actually had to make sure I got his blessing or permission to make sure it was cool, because I wouldn't have gone if he said no. So, I'm happy about my sister-in-law and him really blessing me. My wife and my kids, also, because they can't go. So, for everybody to kind of sign off on it was the ultimate icing on the cake. In the back of my head I always knew that this was what I wanted to do.
“Then (Team USA managing director) Jerry (Colangelo) came up to me and he kind of broke the news to me,” Johnson continued. “I mean, I was lost for words. I didn’t really know what to say but thank you for the opportunity and trust in me to go over there and take care of business with the other guys.”
But now, the cool parts: Johnson said he has several close family members and friends who have served or are serving in the U.S. military. When he told his parents, Rochelle and Chris Johnson, about being an Olympian, “my mom cried, my dad was choking up a little bit, everybody was like, because you know you pray for moments like this … it was a special moment.”
One explanation for their struggles: The players, all of whom are on NBA rosters, have had to adjust to the different rules and style of international play. Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum outlined some of the key adjustments to The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn. "It’s a lot of differences," Tatum said. "Players can’t call timeouts. You can smack the ball off the rim. The ball is different. You can sit in the paint all day. There's less possessions because there’s less minutes in a game.
Q: Who is the biggest threat? Fran Fraschilla: I would say Australia just because of their great chemistry, camaraderie and toughness. They know how to play Team USA. They play the FIBA physical style of play which is reminiscent of NBA circa 1990s, and our Americans are used to touch fouls and two free throws. It’s something I think we’ll figure out by the time we get to Tokyo.
Argentina, the winner of the 2004 Olympic tournament and the 2019 World Cup silver medalist, will begin the games in Tokyo against reigning world champion Spain, Luka Doncic’s Slovenia and host Japan in Group C. The top two teams from each of the three groups will automatically advance to the quarterfinals while two third-placed teams will also qualify based on ranking criteria. The full roster of Argentina is as follows: Point guards: Facundo Campazzo: 1.80 – 30 – Denver Nuggets. Nicolas Laprovittola: 1.88 – 31- free agent. Luca Vildoza: 1.89 – 25 – New York Knicks. Shooting guards: Nicolas Brussino: 2.05 – 27 – Granada. Leandro Bolmaro: 2.00 – 20 – Barcelona. Small Forwards: Gabriel Deck: 1.98 – 26 – Oklahoma City Thunder. Patricio Garino: 1.98 – 28 – free agent. Juan Pablo Vaulet: 1.99 – 25 – AEK Athens. Power forwards: Luis Scola: 2.07 – 41 – Varese. Centers: Marcos Delia: 2.09 – 29 – Trieste. Tayavek Gallizzi: 2.04 – 28 – Regatas Corrientes. Francisco Cáffaro: 2.14 – 21 – Virginia University.
Friday morning, Johnson went into the team room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where Team USA is staying, and Popovich asked Johnson, “Did your life change a little?” Johnson’s reply was, “What are you talking about?” because he doesn’t have Twitter. He hadn’t seen the various media reports that he was replacing Beal. “Then (Team USA managing director) Jerry (Colangelo) came up to me and he kind of broke the news to me,” Johnson continued. “I mean, I was lost for words. I didn’t really know what to say but thank you for the opportunity and trust in me to go over there and take care of business with the other guys.”
Johnson averaged 12.8 points for the Spurs this season. He said Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Zach LaVine have been generous with their teachings during practices. He said being the 29th overall pick of the 2019 draft and becoming an Olympian after two pro seasons is not something he could have expected or even imagined, and he doesn’t want to rest on the laurels of his promotion. But now, the cool parts: Johnson said he has several close family members and friends who have served or are serving in the U.S. military. When he told his parents, Rochelle and Chris Johnson, about being an Olympian, “my mom cried, my dad was choking up a little bit, everybody was like, because you know you pray for moments like this … it was a special moment.”
Marc J. Spears: Challenge @usabasketball faces in replacing 2 players is availability along with being in basketball shape. Several declined or are hurt. One player in Finals that could be considered not already on the team is Brook Lopez, source said. Keldon Johnson likely as @Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
Adrian Wojnarowski: There’s significant support and momentum for Spurs forward Keldon Johnson to be added to 12-man Team USA roster, sources tell ESPN. He’s been playing with Olympic team as member of USA Select group, well-conditioned and has developed into a favorite of decision-makers and staff.
Brian Windhorst: With Jerami Grant in quarantine and Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday & Khris Middleton in Finals, Team USA currently has 6 players.
Chris Haynes: You said those other countries have caught up. Is it fair to think the days of those huge blowout games Team USA used to unleash on a regular basis are over? Damian Lillard: Our attitude has to be that we're going there to win a gold medal, but we can't go in there with the attitude that it's just going to happen. Because everybody has gotten better, we must go over there knowing we can be beat. We’re known for winning gold medals, and we should be going over there wearing that like a badge of honor. We’re here to win it all, but it's not just going to happen. We must earn it. It's that simple. We’re just trying to keep making strides in the right direction. Obviously, we want to win and we're trying to win, but I think the focus has been more on us just getting better and becoming a team more and more. So, when we get over there, we know what we need to do.
After missing the Olympic qualifiers, Dennis Schroder will not be added to the roster of the German national team for the upcoming Olympic Games, as it was officially announced today. Per the German Basketball Federation press release: “Dennis Schr?der will not play for Germany at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The reason for this decision remains the enormous insurance requirements that cannot be met and thus prevent the point guard from being used, as was the case at the Olympic qualification tournament in Croatia.
Renewed, joint, and intensive efforts to be able to guarantee adequate insurance cover were not crowned with success. “I would have loved to have been there in Tokyo. It’s the Olympic Games, that’s pretty much the greatest honor for an athlete, and I’ve always dreamed of participating in the Olympics. I am of course very disappointed that I cannot play and fight with the team in this important tournament. But I’m very happy for all the twelve guys who are going to Tokyo now. They played a great qualification together and deserved to be part of it. As a team, you have shown enormous solidarity and I am convinced that with this attitude you can also achieve something in Tokyo,” stated Schroder.
Adrian Wojnarowski: After spending 10 days in Las Vegas preparing for the Olympics, Cleveland’s Kevin Love is withdrawing from Team USA and won’t travel to Tokyo, sources tell ESPN. Love is still returning to full form from a right calf injury that kept him out a significant part of the NBA season.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Team USA is working to replace two players for the 12-man roster now. Both Bradley Beal and Kevin Love won't join the team in Tokyo this month.
“I left my job and took one that had more flexibility for taking days off during the Olympic Games,” Nakamura said. “We’re all frustrated with COVID-19. Japan was slow to start vaccinating people... “I was sad because I’ve been looking forward to the Games for almost two years since I got tickets. After that I needed to give up many things due to COVID-19 but I’ve been patient and staying safe hoping for this opportunity.” Nakamura and other ticket holders will be receiving a full refund, according to the International Olympic Committee.
While Team USA has three guys from the Select Team up with them, they are still shorthanded. That has led to the cancelation of Friday night’s exhibition against Australia. “Out of an abundance of caution, the USA Basketball Men’s National Team exhibition game versus the Australian Men’s National Team scheduled for Friday, July 16, in Las Vegas has been canceled because of health and safety protocols,” USA Basketball announced
How challenging has it been for you to pick your spots and find your niche on such a star-studded team? Zach LaVine: For me, it's not hard because I understand, or at least for me right now, I understand my place on the team. We can all score. There's guys on the team that's averaged 30. I'm close to 28, 30 points per game myself. So if we all get the ball, we obviously all know how to put the ball in hoop. But we each need to have a role on this team. It needs to be a team instead of just a group of All-Stars and All-NBA players. Or we're not going to win. So, I'm out here just trying to do whatever is necessary. If the ball gets in my hand and I need create, I'm gonna do that. If I need to go out and play defense, I'm gonna do that. If I need to just bring energy, pick up the pace of play. That's what I figured out my role is, and hopefully we can all find out what we do well in this team and still be ourselves.
John Karalis: USA basketball announces Bradley Beal will miss the Olympics due to the health and safety protocols. Jerami Grant is now also in the protocol "out of an abundance of caution"
Storyline: Olympic Games
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September 22, 2021 | 7:42 pm EDT Update