The United States men’s basketball team – which has won gold six times at the Olympics – is an impressive group. While the presence of NBA stars makes them the lifelong “Dream Team” since the pros were allowed to feature at Barcelona 1992, even a bizarre loss becomes big news.
“Every team wants to beat us. Everyone wants to see us lose, so every game has a little more pressure, ”said Kevin Durant, two-time gold medalist and Brooklyn Nets star, as quoted in media in Japan on Wednesday.
The US men’s team recently lost two exhibition games before the Games – losing to Australia and Nigeria – before rebounding quickly with wins over Argentina and Spain.
“It’s always good to have a punch in the mouth from the start, to remind us that it won’t be fun,” Durant said. “I’m sure other teams have seen us lose and feel confident for the tournament, but we understand what we’re getting into and we can’t wait for the challenge.”
“So many people are used to Team USA coming in and blowing everyone up, so it’s good for us to see it. Hopefully these are the last losses. “
The question on everyone’s lips was about the flight status of recent NBA Championship winners Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, and runner-up Devin Booker, and whether they would be fit to play in their opener against France on Sunday.
Durant is wary of the opening game. “France is a well-oiled machine. They have been playing together since they were children. They know each other; there are a lot of NBA players on this team. “
Gregg Popovich, the decorated head coach of the United States, has confirmed that they will not appear as his players do not land until Saturday in the Japanese capital. “There’s not much we can do when they get here the day before,” said the five-time NBA champion as coach of the San Antonio Spurs and their president.
“The good thing is that they will be in good shape. I don’t know how the plane will affect them – it’s not an easy flight. But it is true that they will not be as ready to play in the direction of the execution as one might wish but that is understandable. “
Middleton and Holiday had excelled this season for the Milwaukee Bucks as the two helped their team end a 50-year title drought after beating the Phoenix Suns in Game VI 105-98.
“Three guys – two champions, newly crowned champions. And another guy who’s been on that stage and knows all about it, winning big games and playing big games there. So add IQs, three of these IQ guys to the team – that’ll help. “
Popovich also revealed that Chicago Bulls goalie Zach LaVine will return to camp after initially failing to clear health protocols. “I think he’s going [LaVine] be available for training on Friday, and assuming all goes well, he will be available on Sunday. “
“Chemistry is something that we hope to train quickly. These guys get along really well … they know each other and they are very happy to be here. They sacrificed a lot in the circumstances to do this. “