The United States’ men’s basketball team has been taken down to the wire in their last two preliminary games in this summer’s Olympics, and both Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins have been vocal about the team’s struggles.
Against Austrailia last Wednesday and Serbia on Friday, the men’s team has won by just a combined 13 points, a margin of victory that is way too slim for expectations. Even with a roster that’s without the usual Hall of Fame names, ten of the 12 players on the roster have been named All-Stars, and the squad was expected to waltz in and capture a gold medal.
Cousins, who’s averaging just under 14 minutes per game because of foul trouble, says that the Americans have been losing focus and needed to be “a lot stronger mentally,” according to Michael Lee of The Vertical. He continued with, “Every time we step on the floor, guys are going to give us their best effort, everybody wants to beat Team USA. We know that coming in, but at the same time, we can’t crumble the way we’ve done the past two games. Right now, we’re hurting ourselves. Not taking away credit of how Serbia played, because they played amazing tonight.”
Paul George is the second All-Star who was critical of his team’s performance through its first four games and pointed out how USAB was relying too much on “natural talent” and one-on-one play.
“Once again, we relied on natural talent,” said George. “This is why these guys are special in our league. These international guys really know how to move and really know how to cut. It’s more about how they’re running their offense. It’s wearing us down.”
The European game has always been predicated on ball movement, but the United States has never had an issue with that. They’ve also never had a lineup like this one — one without a true point guard. In prior Olympics, LeBron James, Chris Paul, or Jason Kidd would force ball movement which, when coupled with the skill and athleticism of the rest of the team, would carve up opposing defenses.
The skill and athleticism haven’t dropped off much, but not having a “true” point guard on this roster does have an impact; instead, it’s a collection of brilliant playmakers.
Still, the United States is the favorite to take home the gold. And they probably will, but it’ll be a lot closer if they don’t fix the issues that they feel affect them the most.
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