Team USA Men’s Basketball is off to a rough start. After falling to France in the first game of group play, the team looks to bounce back against Iran tomorrow at 12:40 am EST.
Team USA, loaded with superstars, has not found chemistry and made enough shots/stops to warrant a win. It is not time to panic after just one loss in group play or a few losses in the exhibition round. This team has time to come together and rally before the knockout rounds.
The environment of Olympic Men’s Basketball changed this year. Gone are the days of the Americans dominating every game by 20+ points, and taking pictures with the losing team after the game. Most countries in the tournament are loaded with NBA talent. In many cases, these teams have been playing together for over a year.
This French national team has been playing together for two years and features Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum, and Frank Ntilikina.
In the match against the United States, France showed great chemistry and scoring ability. They were quick on transition defense and got many crucial defensive stops to secure the win. Led by Evan Fournier of the Boston Celtics, France soundly defeated the American All-Stars. The Patriots did not flop in this upset; We were outplayed.
Team USA had moments of great defense and scoring runs, but in the end, they had simply not been playing together long enough to beat the Frenchmen. France is not here to take pictures, they are here to win gold.
Aside from France, other talented countries with NBA characters on their roster include Slovenia (Doncic), Australia (Thybulle, Ingles, Dellevedova, Baynes, etc.), Nigeria (Okogie), and Italy (Gallinari.)
In addition to the large NBA presence at the Olympics, the FIBA rules allow for a much more physical game of basketball. This is something NBA players are not used to (thank you, Adam Silver.)
What is “group play” and how does it work?
Before the knockout rounds, teams are separated into three groups and play games within their group to determine their seed in the knockout tournament. Group play lasts for 6 total games, and 2 points are awarded per win. One point is awarded per loss. The team with the most points gets the best seed in the tournament. See the 3 groups below, and their current standings from the FIBA Basketball website, as of 7/27/2021.
2/6 games played
2/6 games played
2/6 games played
As noted above, group play lasts for a total of six games. This equates to five days. Team USA has almost a week together to build chemistry through group play and team practice. We still have time!
Another reason not to panic: the NBA finals just ended. When Jrue Holiday was the star of the show in our bout against France, he had just gotten off the plane to Tokyo the night before. Our players have been in the US still playing in the Finals, including Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday. Team USA has not established a complete roster until just a few days ago.
Our next game is against the Iranians early tomorrow morning. Iran, which does not have a single NBA player on the roster, is expected to be huge underdogs in this matchup. This could not come at a better time, as our team is in desperate need of a win to build momentum. I expect a dominating win by the Americans tomorrow.
All in all, I expect the Patriots to end up as a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of seeding. If they can adjust to a higher level of physical competition and build team chemistry, they will go home with gold in their pockets. The gold medal match will be the United States versus Australia, with Team USA winning gold. Don’t panic!