Australia surprised the sports world by defeating the U.S. men’s basketball team for the first time ever, snapping the U.S. team’s 78 game winning streak. Prior to this loss, the U.S.’s most recent loss happened against Greece at the 2006 FIBA World Championship. Australian point guard Patty Mills scorched the U.S. by scoring 30 points, which contributed to the team’s comeback from a ten-point deficit in the last two minutes of the game.
The Australian Boomers were led by forward Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers’ fan favorite Matthew Dellavedova, who brought his signature scrappy defense. Not only did the team lose the game, but the U.S. also lost Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma to an ankle injury that occurred while he was in Australia. With the World Cup starting next week, should the team be worried? More importantly, should the fans be worried?
The U.S. men’s team does not boast many big names. The typical stars opted not to participate, choosing instead to rest and prepare for the upcoming NBA season. That is not to say that there isn’t any talent; it is just young talent.
The team combines for five all-star appearances, which pales in comparison to the combined 33 all-star appearances of the U.S. team that competed in the last Olympics. Leading the squad are guards Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell, who will have to rely on San Antonio Spur’s coach Gregg Popovich’s tough coaching to get the team ready. The roster still has a gaping hole on defense, caused by forward P.J. Tucker withdrawing due to a minor injury and forward Thaddeus Young being cut. Center Myles Turner, who averaged 2.7 blocks for the Indiana Pacers, will be the defensive anchor of the team.
Instead of panicking, viewers should be encouraged. As seen in recent NBA seasons, the sport itself is not as enjoyable when watching LeBron James or the Golden State Warriors reach the finals every year. Fans are drawn to the excitement value, and a young team has the potential to provide just that. After all, superhero stories must contain a struggle through the most adverse situations.
With all the young players on the squad hungry to prove themselves, one of them is bound to step up. Expect the young Celtics duo of forwards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to explode on the scoring side. Brown gave a glimpse into his capabilities by scoring 19 in the team’s last exhibition game against Canada.
The biggest competition for the coveted gold medal is Serbia, who is led by Denver Nuggets all-star Nikola Jokic, while also boasting three other NBA names, shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, forward Nemanja Bjelica and center Boban Marjanovic. Spain still has fresh NBA champion Marc Gasol as well as guard Ricky Rubio and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will represent Greece.
It’s on the young Team USA players to not be haunted by the high expectations of being compared to past Olympics teams. At the end of the day, the U.S. team will definitely qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and we will get to see our young stars battle it out on the international stage in the World Cup.