Even without the most famous headliners, the first list announced by Gregg Popovich in June looked great. With James Harden, Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis, the Americans seemed safe from a bad surprise. But since a cascade of packages overwhelmed the highly respected coach of San Antonio Spurs, until the latest, that of Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers), touched ankle last week.
"Pop" had to fall back on a team C or even D, in which there are only two players present at the last All Star Game, Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks) and Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics), no actor in the last final of NBA after the package of Kyle Lowry (Toronto), one Olympic champion, Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings), and only one reigning world champion, Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets), not the best-known bands of 2014 and 2016 .
– The NBA first and foremost –
The reasons are not mysterious: "Most stars want to save energy," sums up former player and coach Sam Mitchell, an analyst for NBA TV. Franchise preparation starts two weeks after the World Cup final on September 15 in Beijing, and the NBA season itself starts on Oct. 22 for an 82-run marathon plus play-offs.
Those who have already been titled at the World Cup or Games like Curry, James and Harden are not motivated enough; those who have gone far in recent play-offs, like Leonard, titled at the end of June with the Toronto Raptors, want time to recover; those who change clubs, like Davis at the Los Angeles Lakers, or host new major players in their franchise want to devote themselves to their integration.
– Beaten by Australia –
It is therefore not surprising that the Americans lost a warm-up match against Australia (98-94) last week in Melbourne. It was their first loss since 2006 with a team made up entirely of NBA players. And if the "Boomers" did it, we do not see why Serbia, Spain and France could not dream too!
A failure at the World would not be new. The first 100% NBA team to fall was that of 2002, with yet some top names such as Reggie Miller, Paul Pearce or Jermaine O'Neal. At the Athens Games, with an impressive selection on paper (including Lebron James, Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony!) And then at the 2006 World Cup, it was again the fiasco. This black series had pushed the United States to send their best team to the Beijing Games and London to restore their supremacy on the sport they invented.
We must of course be wary. The 2019 collective is not short of talented players, even if the rear lines seem much better armed than the slightly lighter domestic sector, and it is obviously among the favorites for gold. In preparation, the United States has clearly dominated Spain and Australia in a first match before the misstep of Melbourne.