Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul believes that nothing is wrong with Team USA at the Rio Olympics, and that the rest of the world is simply catching up.
A 10-point win over Australia? Scraping past Serbia and France with three-point wins? Such results should sound ludicrous for Team USA at the Olympics, even with the B team they’ve brought to Rio de Janeiro this year. Yet, they’ve been nothing but a startling reality, one that makes issues with Team USA’s poor roster construction of scorers, rotations, and weak team defense even more glaring. If only they had Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul to help address such problems.
Paul weighed in on the matter at the Watts-Willowbrook Boys & Girls club on Monday, saying that there isn’t anything wrong with Team USA. The real problem, according to Paul, is that the rest of the world is simply “getting better”.
Given the expected lack of competition for Team USA heading into the Rio Olympics, with the relatively recent days of Argentina (gold medal winners in 2004) and Spain as formidable opponents somewhat forgotten, it’s hard to see that the rest of the world is doing enough to close the gap.
Even with the lack of chemistry, poor fit and poor defense that has wounded America’s performance over the last few games, it’s still incredibly hard to see that they’ll walk away from Rio with anything less desirable than a gold medal. Even with a B team in terms of talent and such obvious issues, a gold medal still seems fairly inevitable.
Australia only fell by 10 points, 98-88, and had a five-point lead at the end of the first half due to their structured offense and exceptional defensive intensity. Before the likes of Ben Simmons, Dante Exum and Thon Maker add themselves to the team in 2020, a group led by Patty Mills (who dropped 30 points against the U.S.), Matthew Dellavedova and Andrew Bogut almost pulled off a major upset.
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Then, as Serbia came even closer in a 94-91 loss, it was stellar Denver Nuggets sophomore Nikola Jokic’s turn to impress. Jokic scored 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting, generally having his way in the post, from mid-range, and even made both his two three-point attempts for good measure, too.
Against France in another three-point win, 100-97, with Tony Parker on the bench and no Evan Fournier even on the team, Team USA went through the same struggles again. Of course, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, Joffrey Lauvergne, Rudy Gobert and Thomas Heurtel are all talented players, but they’re aren’t superstars and Heurtal isn’t even in the NBA.
Some teams are on the rise and have promising young talent like Serbia, Lithuania, Croatia and Australia. The future is bright for such teams and international talent in the NBA is only on the rise, which is brilliant for the game as it spreads around the globe and creates new talent and opportunities for guys like Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis and Dragan Bender.
But right now, though, Team USA are simply not playing that well. Talent and talent alone, more than cohesion, fit, good coaching and simple team defense or effort is carrying them forward.