Things didn’t go especially well for the United States in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, as theyon Wednesday. The loss snapped a streak of 58 straight wins in international competition, and it also marked the United States’ first loss in the FIBA World Cup since 2006 when it lost to Greece in the semifinals.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell led the way for Team USA with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists, but ultimately it wasn’t enough, and afterwards Mitchell was much more concerned with the outcome of the game rather than his personal production.
“I could care less about the 29,” Mitchell said to media members in China. “To me the only thing that sticks out is what I did wrong, and I think that’s all that’s going to stick out in anybody’s mind. Anybody could have had a big game, but we didn’t lock in on certain possessions. Obviously we had some mistakes where we missed a few layups or whatever. So, whether it’s 29, nine, or zero, we lost. That’s where my head is at.”
A lot of the talk surrounding Team USA this summer was about the top-tier talent — guys like Anthony Davis, James Harden, Bradley Beal, Dame Lillard, and Kevin Love — that decided to withdraw from competition for various reasons. But, after the loss to France, the Americans weren’t using that as an excuse. In fact, coach Gregg Popovich said it was “disrespectful” to France and other teams in the tournament for the media to focus on the players that didn’t participate.
“I think it’s a disrespectful notion to even bring something like that up,” Popovich said. “That ‘well, hey, you guys didn’t have this guy or that guy!’ That’s disrespectful to France or whoever else is in the tournament. France beat us. It doesn’t matter who was on the team. I couldn’t be more proud of these 12 guys who sacrificed their summer to come here having never played together before, and they put themselves in the arena and competed and they deserve credit for that. Just like France deserves credit for winning. It’s not about ‘well, the United States didn’t have their other guys.’ There’s no such thing as other guys. These are the guys that were here, and they did a great job, and I’m very proud of them.”
You can see Popovich’s comments below:
Like Popovich, the players weren’t making any excuses after the extremely disappointing loss.
“Just got to take it like a man at this point,” Kemba Walker said, via the Associated Press. “We lost. There’s nothing we can do. We competed. We’ve been competing since day one that we got to training camp. But we gave it everything we’ve got. I know we’re Team USA and things of that nature and they’ve been winning for a lot of years, but you know, we didn’t get a chance to pull it off.”
Though they failed to bring home a medal, the experience wasn’t a net negative for the players as Team USA, as they all got valuable international experience.
“I think individually across the board, everybody is a lot better by playing and going through this entire process,” Nets guard Joe Harris said. “You spend 39-plus days with one of the best coaches in the world, best coaches in the games, in [Gregg Popovich], Coach Kerr, Coach Pierce, Coach Wright … just being around them, learning their approaches to the game, being around all these great players, competing with them night-in, night-out, whether it’s practice or games, and competing at a high level against some of the best players in the world. This is the best offseason preparation that you could have going into the season.”
If there’s any silver lining to this year’s FIBA World Cup for the United States — in addition to the experience that the players gained — it’s that it was able to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games before being eliminated from medal contention. Though it’s nice to qualify, the team clearly has some major adjustments to make to ensure that they avoid a similar disappointment in Japan next summer.