Team USA Basketball Up To This Point
If you’re a big basketball fan like me, you were likely worried about what is going on with Team USA. After suffering a humiliating loss to Nigeria last week, team USA ended the week with back-to-back wins over Argentina and Spain. The win against current world champion Spain served fans some reassurance as Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and Zach LaVine combined for nine 3-pointers in the match. Another pleasant surprise was Keldon Johnson, who scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting in his first game after replacing Kevin Love.
Keldon Johnson with his welcome to Team USA moment 🖐
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) July 19, 2021
Is The Future Bright For Team USA?
As you can see in the clip above, the fans we’re loving the effort put out by Johnson in the team’s most recent contest. Team USA head coach Greg Popovich, who also coaches Johnson on the San Antonio Spurs, had lots of positive things to say about his performance against Spain. “Keldon Johnson played a solid basketball game – He shot it when he was open and when he did go to the bucket he was very physical.”
As Team USA gets ready to head out to Tokyo this week for the Olympics, it doesn’t feel like years previous where they were set up to beatdown on the international competition. Compared to years previous, international teams are deeper and more talented. In addition, team USA is no longer playing by NBA rules, instead, they have to adjust to the FIBA rules for the first time as a new team.
Several players on Team USA are still adjusting to FIBA officiating, per @ChrisBHaynes
"Throughout the games, multiple players, from Jayson Tatum to Bradley Beal, have been staring down the officials following no-calls as they’re accustomed to receiving touch fouls." pic.twitter.com/XZzm44UYqa
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) July 13, 2021
One of the biggest rule differences between the NBA and FIBA rules is that you can knock the ball away from the hoop if it hits the rim. While this is ruled a goaltend in the NBA, international teams have used this to their advantage against Team USA. Last Saturday against Nigeria, a player swatted the ball off the rim while Team USA was at the free-throw line, which ended up leading to them winning the game 90-87.
The rule changes aren’t the only thing affecting the performance of Team USA early on, the team as a whole has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor as well. This new version of Team USA has lacked aggression on defense outside of Draymond Green according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Greg Popovich has acknowledged this and said that the team as a whole is still getting acclimated to playing with one another. Looking at the numbers, this year’s squad has already accumulated as many losses as they did in the last 29 years, which is why fans across the nation have been freaking out.
What To Expect In Tokyo
Looking forward, I do not believe it is time to panic just yet. The team is expecting to receive help from Devin Booker and Khris Middleton once the NBA Finals have concluded. They will also get more comfortable playing with one another and adjust to the FIBA rule set as they play more games. On paper, Team USA is -500 favorites to win the gold medal. While I don’t think there is much value on this line considering the way the team is playing, I do believe there is good reason behind it due to the team’s track record over the years. Team USA enters these Olympics as three-time defending gold medal champions and I believe there is more than enough talent on this team to bring the gold back home.
Team USA opens up Olympic pool play Sunday against France. Depending on when the NBA Finals end, the team could be playing that game with only nine players.