Team USA lost its second straight FIBA World Cup game this morning in China, falling 94-89 to Serbia in a fifth-place consolation game, after yesterday’s embarrassing loss to France eliminated the American team from championship contention. Now the team cannot finish higher than seventh place in the tournament. That will be the worst tournament finish by Team USA in its history.
Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic led all scorers with 28 points; Harrison Barnes paced Team USA with 22. You don’t care about that, I don’t care about that, nobody cares about that. The important thing is that the Serbian team was comprehensively superior, as were the French, and that this is a spectacular face-plant by the Americans.
There’s still a final humiliating mop-up game against Poland that will decide seventh and eighth place in the World Cup, but for all other purposes today’s loss concludes a farcical summer for Team USA. It began with what seemed like every established, name-brand American basketball star—and at least one guy who can’t even crack his NBA team’s starting lineup—withdrawing from participation, but the program still sent more than enough firepower to China (Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Myles Turner, Jayson Tatum, Khris Middleton, etc.) to be this tournament’s clear favorite at the outset. In fact, the safe assumption at the jump was that Team USA and Serbia would meet in the gold-medal game, rather than in a shameful consolation tilt with no medals at stake.
With none of the, what, top two dozen American basketball players participating, the result still doesn’t mean all that much. What I want to draw your attention to is USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo’s hilarious, bruised tough-guy routine in the aftermath.
From the Associated Press (emphasis added):
“I can only say, you can’t help but notice and remember who you thought you were going to war with and who didn’t show up,” Colangelo said. “I’m a firm believer that you deal with the cards you’re dealt. All we could have done, and we did it, is get the commitments from a lot of players. So with that kind of a hand you feel reasonably confident that you’re going to be able to put a very good representative team on the court.
“No one would have anticipated the pull-outs that we had.”
It’s true: Team USA suffered as a result of virtually all the country’s best basketball players declining to play for it. It’s also true that Jerry Colangelo will sprout a second head and name it Geoffrey before he will turn away any of the World Cup withdrawals who signal a willingness to join the team in Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Not only will Jerry Colangelo willingly forget which players backed out of agreements to play in the World Cup if it helps him stack the roster for the Olympics, he’ll forget his own damn birthday. Jerry Colangelo would feed his pet dog to a crocodile if it’d get James Harden and Anthony Davis on the 2020 roster.
What’s he gonna do? Punish Damian Lillard for backing out of the World Cup by... running out a shitty team in Tokyo and coming home without an Olympic medal? That’ll show those holdouts. Hand over the jewels, or so help me I’ll blast my own goddamn dick off with this shotgun! That’s not how it works, man.
Wait, there’s more.
“Going forward for USA Basketball, we’re going to need the cooperation of teams, agents and then there has to be communication with players 1-on-1 to solidify those commitments,” Colangelo said. “I am going to be anxious to see how many players reach out early to indicate that they wish and want and desire to play.
“But I’ll make this statement: It’s as much about maybe who we don’t want as much as who we want.”
No the hell it isn’t, Jerry! C’mon.