Despite decent showings from Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, including a team-high 22 points in Monday’s 91-83 loss to Australia, Team USA is 0-2 in exhibition games leading up to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the poor start is cause for concern, but not panic.
Team USA has only practiced together for two and a half days. Haynes said players are still adjusting to a different style of officiating and different FIBA rules, such as allowed basket interference once the ball touches the rim and increased hand-checking.
Team USA is still in a feeling-out period when it comes to playing with each other, and one noticeable observation is that they’re still in NBA mode.
Throughout the games, multiple players, from Jayson Tatum to Bradley Beal, have been staring down the officials following no-calls as they’re accustomed to receiving touch fouls or star-treatment officiating in the NBA.
Another issue hurting the team early on is a lack of defensive aggression, a key component of previous USA teams. However, Haynes said once Team USA plays more together their defensive woes could turn around.
Head coach Gregg Popovich has stated players are still rounding into shape, so applying immense full-court pressure is probably not the best course of action at this stage.
One more reason to pause with early evaluations of the team, Haynes pointed out Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday will all join the Team USA roster once the NBA Finals end.
You can read the full piece from Haynes here.