However, with eight other teammates, the players were chosen by the American Basketball Federation to lead the United States at the World Cup that begins this Saturday, August 31 in China. A double champion armada and three-time Olympic champion whose fame is well established.
Yet, on the first day of the Chinese World Cup, never for years has the powerful "Team USA" been so friable. Indeed, for the first time in a long time, the other teams involved in the competition seem to be able to legitimately target gold, they who used to compete only the second place behind the untouchable stars of the NBA. The HuffPost explains the reasons for this unexpected paradigm shift.
· A cascade of packages
Better to recognize it from the outset: in basketball, the World Cup does not have the aura of the Olympic Games, the international competition queen of this sport. And for this reason, the US headliners have become used to preserving themselves at the world, regularly leaving the second knives to defend the colors of Uncle Sam. But from there to send a squad as weak as this year. .. (Even if everything is relative, and any other selection would probably be happy to rely on American players.)
Thus, only two of the Team USA players were selected at the last All-Star Game, the rendezvous of the 24 most successful basketball players of the season in the NBA (leader Kemba Walker and winger Khris Middleton). Many experts even compare the panel of players from 2019 to that of 2002, when the United States finished the World Cup at an infamous sixth place, the worst result in their history.
There are explanations for this unusual depopulation. After an NBA season that saw the Toronto Raptors surprise team win the championship, the cards were rebuffed into the best world championship. Marked by several serious injuries, the star players chose for many to stay working in the United States, improve their fitness, discover their new teammates and spare themselves the fatigue of a trip to China and the previous preparation a World. The biggest stars know besides that next summer will be the one of the flagship competition, and that they will try at the Games of Tokyo to keep their Olympic title.
· Stars present … in the other teams
Yet, despite the many American packages (Anthony Davis, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Tobias Harris, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Love to name a few), there will be stars at the 2019 World Cup. NBA's best player of last season and the fourth in this ranking will be in the game. But in perfect symbol of the opening every year more important of the American championship towards the international, they will appear in the opponents of the United States.
Last year, Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo flew over the season to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to first place in the NBA. A performance he would like to continue by giving back to Greece – a strong history of world basketball, in decline in recent years – its luster of yesteryear. And he could cross the road Americans in their fourth match in this World.
But perhaps it is Nikola Jokic, the great goldsmith with goldsmith hands, that the greatest danger could come for America. Regularly at the highest level (finalist against the United States during the last Olympics and the last World Cup), Serbia finally seems to finally beat the US squad, especially if it is weakened. And it is not the presence of the exceptional pivot Denver Nuggets in its workforce that will say the opposite.
Finally, with a team of France still athletic and motivated, experienced Spaniards and perfectly directed, a riddled Lithuania and physically dense, and Australia terribly confident, adversity will be felt very quickly for the flock of Gregg Popovich , the historic San Antonio Spurs coach, for the first time alone at the helm of Team USA.
· A complicated preparation
The best proof of this formidable adversity is what happened on August 24th. That day, and for the first time since the 2006 World Cup semi-final against Greece, the Americans have fallen. Before that, it had been 13 years and 78 games that they had not lost.
But the Australians, worn by a lot of basketball players broken NBA jousts, managed to outplay the United States in a friendly. And at the same time they put in the minds of all the teams on the planet that the United States could be beaten, even if they invented the sport and they often leave nothing but crumbs to the competition.
In addition to all this, the Americans will have to do with a very young team, who knows little about these international games. The charming candor of Donovan Mitchell, supposed to be one of the pillars of the United States and who is enthusiastic each day to travel and discover new landscapes is a good indicator. Moreover, because of the cascade of packages, some players had to be integrated into the team when they thought to be there only to make the number in training, or that we did them a favor by inviting for a few days to the American base camp.
These young players will have little time to do to another constraint. Over the years, the game as it is practiced in the NBA has thus moved away from that which is governed by the much stricter rules of international competitions. And for some American novices, this could be very complex. Indeed, it is difficult to predict how the US selection will behave in the face of rackets – that is to say, players who are standing near the basket defensively and blocking access to rough opponents of Serbia or Serbia. Australia, how it will fight its way through the compact and tight defenses of European formations, how its stars will cash the harshness and constant harassment that can put in motion the international teams.
· Do not sell the skin of the bear …
Still, the picture is not as black as it looks for Americans. As proven by sports betting sites, the United States remains very much a favorite of the competition. On the bench, they can count with Gregg Popovich on a man who can legitimately claim the title of best coach of all time. In their ranks, they have with Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, some of the most promising hopes of their sport. And on the bench, despite their relative anonymity, they have exceptional shooters that could shatter any defense by their long-range shots (Joe Harris, Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton …).
In addition, the other teams also suffered last-minute packages. With Milos Teodosic and Thomas Heurtel, for example, France and Serbia lost their point guard just days before the start of the competition. But one thing is certain, and the American defeat against Australia has proved it: this year more than ever, the door is open for the invincible Americans to finally fall in official competition. It remains to be seen if anyone will seize this opportunity.
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