The basketball world was somewhat surprised after France handed Team USA their first loss at the Olympics, which was their first loss in the tournament opener since the 2004 Olympics in Athens. France played incredible team basketball even though when it comes to individual talent; they are not on the same level as the US. However, basketball is still a team sport, and having a cohesive unit with chemistry will always mean more than a group of talented individuals who play for themselves.
That was the case in a game between France and the US. France played like a team while the US mainly relied on their individual qualities, which didn’t work out against France. French national team also has five NBA players, which is proof NBA is genuinely an international league, and it’s evident now the world has caught up to the US.
In an interview after the game, Damian Lillard said something rather interesting about international players and how they play for their countries. Lillard is convinced international players are better when they play for their national teams because they have more freedom, and it means more for them than playing in the NBA.
“And you know who we see each night sometimes in the NBA, they are completely different when they play for their countries. They got more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious. So we put ourselves in a dogfight, and they made plays to win it.”Damian Lillard
It’s hard to say whether international players feel more comfortable playing at the international tournaments than in the NBA. Still, they adapt easier to the FIBA rules than the NBA players because international players grew up playing under those rules, unlike most NBA players. The game itself is much different; with more physical contact, the refs are not giving calls out easily, the court is smaller, and the game is 8 minutes shorter than an NBA game.
Team USA will have to figure things quickly, and luckily for them, they have two easy opponents after France, which might serve as a good practice for them to build chemistry and get more players involved. That way, coach Pop can see which players are physically and mentally ready to play in this tournament. The alarm has gone off, and now it’s up to the US players to figure things out and earn the respect they all had when coming to the Olympics.