Team USA men’s basketball fans are bored.
In 2004, the team hit rock bottom when it stumbled to a bronze medal and lost the opening game by 19 (!!!) points to Puerto Rico. Powered by new leadership — head coach Mike Krzyzewski replaced Larry Brown, whose my-way-or-the-highway demeanor bristled players — the Redeem Team dominated en route to gold in 2008. The London Games four years later featured more of the same as the absolute best players in the world steamrolled their overmatched competition.
This year, USA Basketball has been far from perfect, despite going 7-0 record and earning a spot in the gold medal game today against Serbia.
It hasn’t been as beautiful as 2008, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony (all still in their respective primes) made a mockery of the international tournament.
This year, the best players — James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis — aren’t playing in Rio. That much is true. But to hear fans tell it, you’d think the 2016 group was getting carved up by Carlos Arroyo and players of his caliber like the Athens team 12 years ago.
But this ain’t that.
American NBA fans, i.e. the people who care about Olympics basketball, are already sick of the superteams flexing their superior talent. So what we’ve seen are hasty reactions declaring this team to be the worst in our history. Click-bait thinkpieces — like one from Fox Sports, complete with a misleading headline — even posit “Why Team USA’s play could spell problems for the Warriors.”
The similarities between the Olympics team and the Dubs begin and end with the fact that Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are on both rosters. Coach K ain’t Coach Kerr. The international game ain’t the NBA. And Stephen Curry ain’t walking through that door in Rio, folks. So any findings, based on a whopping seven (!!!) games played in an entirely different format, are comically invalid. (And, to be clear, the Fox Sports piece was written after five games, a usable sample size for nothing.)
“Instead of going into the season with some baseline understanding between the three Olympians,” wrote the Fox Sports author, “the Warriors will instead enter training camp with Green’s confidence low and Durant and Thompson drunk on isolation.”
Durant chose to come to the Bay, knowing he’d be widely ridiculed, because he wanted a role in an offense that stresses ball movement. But, I suppose, applying the “Don’t make that face, it could stick” principle to NBA superstars’ play works, too.
The Warriors will be fine. There will be an adjustment period as they incorporate one of the best scorers in the world and come to terms with being one of the most hated groups in recent memory.
And Team USA will also be fine, and with Manu Ginobli, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bogut (to name a few international basketball greats) likely playing in their last Games, maybe it’s time we take heed to what so many have said before: America should send true amateurs.
Because, as fans, we consumed this stretch of dominance in 2008, digested it in 2012, and now we’re dumping it out in 2016.