Let’s face it: There is a good reason why so many of the NBA’s top superstars decided to forego representing Team USA at the FIBA World Cup in China: Spending a month overseas, in a country where it is often hard to find a good meal, was too unappealing of a prospect.
NBA players value their downtime, and American players do not view the World Cup as a prestigious event.
The Olympics? That is a different story.
When the Opening Ceremonies take place next summer in Tokyo, you can expect a bevy of NBA All-Stars to be marching in the Olympic Stadium. For most of them, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime event that they will treasure forever, and the chance to participate will be irresistible.
That’s why one sportsbook located offshore has already listed Team USA as a -1000 favorite to win the gold medal. For the uninitiated, that means you would need to wager $100 to win $10.
“Life goes on”
In China, the members of Team USA were unapologetic about their 10-point defeat to France. They did not want to speak about the players who did not participate, and they held their heads high despite a defeat that ended a 58-game winning streak.
- Head coach Gregg Popovich: “Any loss hurts, and this situation hurts more, but life goes on. This is very important. We would have loved to have won, just like any other team, we would have loved to win games in this tournament. But, we all have family and lives and life moving on.”
- Marcus Smart: ” “We learned a lot. For a lot of us it was our first time (in a FIBA tournament) so we came out and gave it everything. I’m proud of every last one of my teammates. We got another game tomorrow (a relegation game against Serbia) so it’s not over with. We have to come out and compete.”
- Jaylen Brown: “France just played better than us tonight. That’s why we lost.” … “Everybody knows what we wanted to do, and we didn’t do it. I guess you can imagine how we feel, right?
- Joe Harris: “We certainly didn’t deserve to win that game, but it is tough. You put in a lot of time, a lot of work, you build up a special bond with these guys and the coaches, and then for it not to come to fruition and the end of all of it, it’s a tough pill to swallow. But at the end of the day, you still have to represent yourself and USA Basketball with class.”
There is no telling who will be representing Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but the talent level should be on par with what the United States sent to the 2016 Rio Olympics when the squad was comprised of Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Kyle Lowry, Harrison Barnes, DeMar DeRozan, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Draymond Green and Carmelo Anthony.
The Americans will need size to compete with the likes of Serbia (which has Nikola Jokic) and France (which has Rudy Gobert), and the number of studly American centers can be counted on one hand.
“We had guys that didn’t make it in, and they want to compete, too. It’s a lot for these guys, but if they don’t want to play, they don’t want to play,” Barnes said. “I know how I feel. I know how those guys feel, and that’s where my head is at. I know that people are going to focus on who we didn’t have, but how about we focus on who we do have. Our season ended, and we came out ready to work with Coach Pop and all his coaches.
“It’s not about who’s not here. I’ve been saying that for a while. You guys are going to do your thing, but we have 12 guys who are going to compete for America. Just like every country. It sucks that some of our country people don’t feel that way about us, but we don’t care. We’re going to compete, and we did.”
The road to Tokyo goes on
As previously noted, this Team USA is unashamed by this loss. Good for them.
Every so often, the U.S. federation has to hit the reset button. Team USA has already qualified for Tokyo (along with Argentina, Australia, Iran, Nigeria, Spain, France and Japan.) The other four spots will be determined through qualifying tournaments next summer.
There will be four FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, which will feature six teams each. The 16-best ranked teams at the World Cup outside the ones who clinched direct qualification have already secured places in next summer’s Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. Additionally, two teams from each region – Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe – will be awarded places in the tournament according to the FIBA World Ranking presented by NIKE.