- The US Olympic basketball team lost its first two exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia.
- The 2016 team dominated exhibitions, with an average 46-point margin of victory in five games.
- Head coach Gregg Popovich does not consider those blowouts, and insulted a reporter who did.
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Gregg Popovich is lowering the bar for the US Olympic Men’s Basketball Team.
After back-to-back pre-Olympics exhibition losses to Nigeria and Australia, the 72-year-old veteran coach insulted a reporter who brought up the fact that the team has been much better in the past and tried to dispute that previous success.
During a press conference following the team’s 91-83 loss to Australia on Monday, Joe Vardon of The Athletic asked guard Damian Lillard how it felt to have seen players on previous US teams ‘blow out opponents.’
Popovich interjected and disagreed with the premise.
“You asked the same sort of question last time where you assumed things that are not true,” Popovich said. “When you make statements about, in the past, just blowing out these other teams – number one, you give no respect to the other teams. I talked to you the last time about the same thing. We’ve had very close games against four of five countries in all these tournaments.
“So, the good teams do not get blown out. There are certain games that might happen in one of these tournaments, like the World Championships or the Olympics, where somebody gets blown out, but in general, nobody is blowing anybody out for the good teams. So when you make a statement like that, you assume that’s what’s going on. And, that’s incorrect.”
-SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 13, 2021
Popovich is a first-time head coach for the US Olympic Team.
In 2016 under the leadership of former Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the US won all five of its exhibition games in the Pre-Olympic Tour by an average margin of 46 points. The team’s smallest margin of victory was 35 points, which is still a widely lopsided blowout by basketball standards.
Only one of Team USA’s exhibition games has been decided by less than 10 points since 2004, an 86-80 victory over Argentina in 2012.
Team USA hasn’t lost a single Pre-Olympic Tour exhibition game since a loss to Italy in 2004, which was the team’s only exhibition loss in its history dating back to the start of the Pre-Olympic Tour in 1992.
But now, with two losses already this year, the team has already doubled its total in that span.
The team is at no shortage of talent, with 10 NBA All-Stars on its roster, but Popovich’s first stint as head coach has been a historic disappointment so far.
The team can undoubtedly uphold its historic standard when the Olympics officially commence later this month, as it will be looking to keep a streak of 24 straight wins and three straight Gold medals going.