The exhibition problems encountered by Team USA will be immediately put to the test. Its first opponent at the Tokyo Olympics, France, won the last meeting between the two countries, in the quarter-finals of the FIBA World Cup two years ago.
The France team has a roster that includes NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, quality shooters Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier, as well as Frank Ntilikina of the Knicks and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot of the Nets.
“Everyone wants to beat us,” Nets star Kevin Durant told reporters at Team USA. “Everyone wants to see us lose, so every game has a little more pressure. A lot of guys gave up. Lots of circumstances. I’m sure other teams have seen us lose and feel confident for the tournament. But, we understand what we’re getting into and [we’re] looking forward to the challenge.
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The United States comes into the Group A action largely a work in progress while chasing a fourth straight gold medal. Star guard Bradley Beal did not make the trip to Japan due to COVID-19 issues. Kevin Love withdrew due to a calf injury that had not healed as expected. Unannounced players Keldon Johnson and Javale McGee replaced them.
The Bucks ‘Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton and the Suns’ Devin Booker were still busy with the NBA Finals, so they weren’t available for all four exhibition games, including two lost by America, against Nigeria and Australia. . Gregg Popovich, the US head coach, said he was not sure how to use them yet, although they will be available to play on Sunday.
Jerami Grant and Zach LaVine ran out of time due to COVID-19 protocols. The team that will take court on Sunday have had virtually no time together, pale compared to the countries the United States will face.
“It’s one of the interesting things about international basketball, is that our team changes every year and the teams we play against stay the same, and that’s the big challenge,” said Warriors coach and USA team assistant Steve Kerr.
Exposure losses led to concerns about a repeat of the dismal performance at the 2004 Athens Games, when the United States settled for a bronze medal. While there is plenty of power in this year’s squad, from Durant to Booker to Damian Lillard, the United States lacks experience – only Durant and Draymond Green were on the medal-winning squad. gold in 2016 – and are not among the best in the NBA. players. LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving have chosen not to play for various reasons.
Starting Sunday against France, the United States can take one of two directions: prove those worries were insane or draw more comparisons to 2004 in Athens.