At least they were better than Poland.
Team USA wrapped up a disappointing World Cup experience this morning with a 13-point win over the Polish contingent in a battle for seventh place. It’s not what the Americans expected going into the tournament or where they appeared to be headed when the invitations for training camp went out last month.
But that was before Anthony Davis passed on the chance to play in China, followed by James Harden, Eric Gordon, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Tobias Harris, Kevin Love and a host of other NBA stars. The final 12-man roster didn’t have enough shooting, size or cohesiveness to compete with the world’s best teams, resulting in the worst finish for the Americans in a major tournament since NBA players started participating in 1992.
It’s easy to dismiss this year’s results and expect Team USA to be back on top at the 2020 Olympics. But Kobe Bryant, who helped re-establish American dominance after a similar performance in 2004, isn’t buying it.
“It’s not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the U.S., it’s that the rest of the world has been caught up for quite some time,” Bryant told Brian Windhorst of ESPN. “And it’s to the point now where us in the U.S. are going to win some, we’re going lose some. And that’s just how it goes.”
Windhorst believes the Americans didn’t underachieve, but finished about where their talent level should indicate. They lost to France and Serbia in the tournament and dropped an exhibition game to Australia, leaving their overall record at 7-3. It would have been 6-4 if not for a fortunate win over a Turkish team that let a victory slip away because of missed free throws.
Whatever the roster looks like for 2020, Team USA won’t have the overwhelming talent advantage it has gotten used to in Olympic play. LeBron James will be 35. Kevin Durant may still be awaiting his return from an Achilles injury. Kawhi Leonard has never played in an Olympics or World Cup and isn’t a sure thing to participate.
As Bryant noted, the rest of the world has been catching up for a while. Many teams are filled with NBA players and work together frequently, while the Americans will be starting from scratch when Olympic training camp begins.
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