I have a question.
Is it time for Americans to lower our expectations of men’s USA Basketball?
I’m being serious.
And when I say this, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t come into the Olympics and World Championships expecting to win, but what I am saying is that the days of us dominating the rest of the world and having a semi-competitive Gold medal game where we win by 8-12 points are over.
I just watched the USA lose to France in their first game in Tokyo. It was the first loss for team USA in group play since Athens in 2004. It isn’t the end of the world; it was only group play and the US still has a chance to claim gold. However, this is the 3rd loss in 5 games for the USA squad if you include exhibitions.
The fact of the matter is that teams around the world have more camaraderie because they have played together longer. The gap between their best players and the United States’ best players is shrinking every single day. You couple this with the fact that the international game is still more predicated on skill, shotmaking, and precision rather than raw athletic ability and you can see how the playing field is leveled.
I mean, Evan Fournier led all players in scoring in the game with 28 points and nearly tripled the point production that Kevin Durant gave team USA today. These games are becoming more and more about who’s making and missing than the United States having a clear competitive advantage, and that’s what’s becoming scary. While Team USA still has more overall talent, the unity and togetherness of some of these other nations are bridging that gap, especially when we only put these teams together with a month of practice, sometimes less.
The dreams of Team USA are still very much in reach, but it seems like this is going to be a much harder road to get there than many expected. They’ll need to mesh very quickly and find a true number one option while relying on their defense to carry them. They also need to use their athleticism to get more opportunities at the basket, rather than settling for all of these three-point shots.
It’s going to take a lot more for this team to be successful and maybe as fans, we should all realize that.