Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson share sentiments with Paul George on Team USA struggles
It’s really sad, but America doesn’t really care about Olympic basketball unless the thought of losing comes into play.
Ominous vibes sent up north from U.S. Men’s National Basketball down in Rio 2016 after the team secured the group’s top seed with a three-point victory over the Tony Parker-less French. After skimming past the last three group matches with late rallys or nearly blown leads, Team USA admits to lackluster efforts and unexpected results. Of course, the issues have been obvious to all.
Half speed. Passive. Just lazy. With no disparities at any position and no intention to put franchise athletes in harm’s way, Coach Krzyzewski has been dealt with a hand of high expectations and low commitment. Not to question player patriotism, but he faces a confounding All-Star energy with his team’s commitment to winning. After just four practices before heading to Rio, Team USA left home leaving chemistry concerns on a squad with 10 new members.
Paul George spoke about the lack “natural movement” recently, and he believes the struggled results on offense have confused them on defense. No excuses for a team of peak professionals who face and run pick-and-roll daily, but to constantly collapse from the top of the key and fall for a backdoor cut can crush anybody’s confidence. George’s fellow, starting small forward, Kevin Durant, shares his sentiment toward America basketball’s current state but understands a few obvious changes from past Olympics.
When asked if he thought the Olympics would be easier, Kevin Durant said: "I thought so. We wanted to strive for greatness."
— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) August 14, 2016
Durant’s newest teammate on Golden State, shooting guard Klay Thompson, expanded on the rather disappointing journey thus far, concluding that “there’s no letting up in this kind of a tournament” now with group secured. Thompson identified issues, saying:
“We gave them too many good looks around the basket and got complacent on defense. We can outscore teams. But that’s not going to win us a gold. We’ve got to lock up, and we will.”
Even the best players in the World make mistakes, but the team is showing 2004-esque weaknesses. Coming from Team USA’s past two trips with players like Jason Kidd, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams, Russel Westbrook and Chris Paul, we see a glaring void of facilitative playmakers in 2016. Draymond Green might be the best passer on this team, but Kyrie Irving and his recent double-digit assist count against France can make an argument.
Nevertheless, the slight imbalance in the team’s genetic makeup doesn’t deter from expectations; unless, of course, you consider the competition. Australia’s starting lineup featured four NBA players, with 10 more players that have played with each other for years. France played with the spirit of Tony Parker, who has more international basketball experience than anyone on Team USA. The competition in 2016 is something to respect, not demean.
Regardless, American basketball’s mission and attitude should not be shaken. There’s a silver lining to this problem, and a failure is only a failure if you can’t find a solution, as Durant explains:
“Obviously, everybody wants us to win by a lot of points, but it’s not how it’s going to go this time. We’ve got to be prepared for a grind-out game. We’ve shown the last three games we can grind it out.”
With top-seed benefits come an opportunity for the United States to find their stride in the heat of competition. By the time elimination rounds come around, one thing will remain unchanged: the best team in the World will be chasing gold.