NBA Rumor: USA Basketball

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Kevin Durant on Team USA: The stars were aligned for us to lose early on

Team USA men’s basketball has been a subject of scrutiny for the last five days with the basketball community expressing its enormous disappointment in the team getting off to an unprecedented 0-2 exhibition start ahead of the Olympics in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant, the face of Team USA, is just chilling in his hotel suite at Aria Resort & Casino. “I’m doing fine, myself,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “I haven’t really left my room with the health and safety protocols we’re following. Not really watching much [NBA Finals] basketball. I’m just out here to hoop, stay safe and get better. The s*** people are saying doesn’t bother me. It’s all about context.”

Durant noted that the context was important. “It’s easy to say that after two losses without any context,” Durant tells Yahoo Sports. “Let’s just go down the roster of each team and you can find the answer. If you’re looking for NBA talent, those teams have it. 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.”

Throughout the games, multiple players, from Jayson Tatum to Bradley Beal, have been staring down the officials following no-calls as they’re accustomed to receiving touch fouls or star-treatment officiating in the NBA. In the first half on Monday, Tatum was called for an offensive foul on a drive when he slightly nudged the defender aside with his right hand to create separation. It was a move that’s consistently ignored in the NBA. And Team USA has yet to attempt knocking the ball off the rim after it’s clanking around, a method that’s allowed in FIBA play but ruled a goaltend in the NBA.

The dominant USA basketball teams of the past were defensive nightmares for opponents. There was an emphasis centered on aggressive full-court pressure and traps to ignite the offense. As talented as they were offensively, they were even better defensively. Australia shot 52.9% from the field and outscored Team USA in the paint 44-24. This version of Team USA has lacked aggression on defense, aside from Draymond Green. Head coach Gregg Popovich has stated players are still rounding into shape, so applying immense full-court pressure is probably not the best course of action at this stage.

Jerry Colangelo ON KEVIN DURANT: “This guy is a very, very special individual in my opinion. … He’s always had this great enthusiasm, for playing USA basketball, for playing the game of basketball. He’s been in my opinion a real warrior, I love the guy as a player, I love him as a person, and the fact he stepped up to commit himself as he did didn’t surprise me. I was very very pleased because he’s a very very important part of our potential success.”

Unlike in 2019, when the Americans finished a disappointing seventh in the World Cup with a team that featured traditional centers and limited shooting, this roster is filled with players who can play multiple positions and are shooting specialists. “Versatility and athleticism are trademarks of this group,” said Colangelo, who will retire following the Tokyo Games after 16 years leading Team USA. “Our staff feels this will be a very competitive group and we’ll have shooting that we’ve been lacking. We’re going to go into camp feeling confident we’re going to perform well.”
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