I saw the word “upset” thrown around all over the place when everyone on social media talked about France defeating the United States at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, eliminating the Americans from the international tournament in China.
But the U.S. team was hardly the favorites.
There were some notable names on the squad — Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Khris Middleton and Jayson Tatum. Yet the headlines about the team were more about who WASN’T there: Stars like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, James Harden … the list goes on and on. Day after day, we saw names of players who reportedly withdrew, and it became a running joke.
They barely escaped against Turkey. They lost in a scrimmage to random G League and overseas players. Ultimately, the team didn’t gel in a tournament when team play is everything.
Look at what France did on Wednesday — they came together on both ends of the floor with Rudy Gobert clogging the lane and playing his usual tough inside game. Evan Fournier, Nando de Colo and Frank Ntilikina hit key shots. And in the fourth, with Mitchell having one the great international games in USA history, we saw Walker try to take over and fail.
I’m not saying the loss is on Walker only. Middleton shot 2-of-7. Myles Turner only played 10 minutes with foul trouble. And from a larger perspective, this team lacked the star power and chemistry that other squads like France and Argentina, which shockingly beat Nikola Jokic and Serbia without names like Manu Ginobili and with an aging Luis Scola (20 points and Facundo Campazzo.
Where does the team go from here? They’ll play in the 2020 Olympics Games, and perhaps if some of those names who declined watched what happened on Wednesday, they’ll jump in and play (perhaps some of those stars declined knowing they’d rather not participate in two straight international tournaments.
And hopefully, they’ll find the chemistry and rhythm that this team didn’t.