It’s hard to pinpoint only one reason why the 2004 USA Olympic team disappointed.
Did they not see the Olympic tournament challenging enough, so they didn’t bring their A-game? Was it because they weren’t playing basketball the right way or didn’t see it as relevant? Or maybe the injuries had something to do with it, as Sean Ford, the team’s director at the time, says? Ford explains how the USA basketball team was in a place where it didn’t have all the best players available on the roster (some were sitting out, others were injured), so they decided to go younger.
“Injuries and the situation of the world a lot of guys were unable to play. Jason Kidd was hurt, Ray Allen was hurt, Jermaine O’Neal was hurt. It just wasn’t working the way we wanted it to. So we went a little bit younger.”Sean Ford, via Dream Team Tapes
There in Athens, the team was detached, and it wasn’t clicking from the opening game in which Puerto Rico defeated the US team. Later on, the USA team lost in the semifinals to the Argentinian team, which Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola led. But after a hard-fought battle with Lithuania, they eventually won the bronze medal.
Even though that team had LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony (who were very young), they didn’t get much playing time. In that bronze medal game, LeBron and Carmelo played only seven minutes, and Wade got 16. The USA won behind Shawn Marion’s 22 points along with 15 from Allen Iverson. Almost 17 years later, Carmelo and D- Wade open about the circumstances that led to them being added to the 2004 team.
“We really had no clue what we were getting into. We were just happy to be named to the Olympic team and be playing. We got the call last minute and just saw ourselves as the roster fillers”,Dwyane Wade, via Dream Team Tapes
Wade scored nine points against Lithuania, but only two against Argentina in the semis. Melo, on the other hand, didn’t even get playing minutes against the Argentinians.
“I think things could have been different but we didn’t have time. We came at the last minute. Me, D-Wade, and LeBron. The way that we looked at it as we’re only here for the roster fillers.Carmelo Anthony, via Dream Team Tapes
The 2004 team maybe had to happen because the US players were more serious about the Olympics after that. But, from this perspective, it sure comes as a surprise that a team that had Iverson, Duncan, and Marion lost two games in the Olympics and had to settle for a bronze medal.