For the first time in 13 years, Team U.S.A Basketball took a heart breaking loss. Last night Team U.S.A lost to the Australia Boomers by a score of 94-98, Patty Mills led both teams in scoring with 30 points, the leading scorer for the U.S. was Kemba Walker with an underwhelming 22 points. The narrative around this years FIBA World Cup team was that they did not posses the talent to really dominate like they have in years past, and clearly that is the case. Personally, I never lost faith in our ability to win out and dominate the world cup, but clearly I need to rethink my personal opinion. So the question is, what’s wrong with Team U.S.A. Basketball?
Though the roster is not terrible, it clearly isn’t where it has been the last few international tournaments. But why is that? The new vogue of the NBA is player rest. You see players such as LeBron James, James Harden, Steph Curry, sitting out games due to “load management”. Basically, star players are valuing rest over playing to prolong their careers. This isn’t necessarily bad for players or the NBA, but come summer time players would rather rest than put mileage on their bodies. This is why we have seen Team U.S.A.’s roster progressively get worse year to year. Also, the fear of big injuries plays a huge rule in players not playing. We have seen players since Paul Georges injury opt out almost immediately. Often with Team U.S.A basketball teams we see multiple All-NBA players and All-Stars, now we see a few All-Stars at best.
On top of the lack of “talent”, the style of play that team U.S.A. is playing simple does not work in international play. Coach Pop preaches ball movement and extra passes. He also loves to force the ball to big-man in the paint. Not only is this years roster full of isolation scorers, the best big man on team U.S.A. is Myles Turner. Don’t get me wrong Turner is a good player, but relying on him to dominate in the post against some of the other big-men in this years FIBA World Cup. Pop also loves to play a lot of zone, which is why Patty Mills was able to get any shot he wanted on the court. The players on this years team are young and inexperienced. They aren’t used to playing zone and lack the IQ to execute it properly. These players are so athletically gifted they can simply lock down a player simply by manning them up.
So what is wrong with Team U.S.A.? Almost everything. For once Coach Gregg Poppovic is being exposed by other coaches and teams, the talent on the roster is progressively getting worse and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Hopefully, Pop can change his philosophy and really harp on the strength of these young guys. Until then, U.S.A. fans hold your breath because we may be in for a bumpy ride