Gregg Popovich Rumors
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.’’
Ben Golliver: USA Coach Gregg Popovich on Tokyo Olympic opening loss to France: “When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed. I don’t understand the word ‘surprised.’ That sort of disses the French team, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30. That’s a hell of a team.”