USA TODAY Sports
The U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team isn’t exactly dominating in Rio de Janiero so far. Sure, it finished the group stage 5-0, but the team had some close calls, including three-point wins over France and Serbia.
With the knockout round set to start on Wednesday, the Americans have some things to figure out. If you ask Charles Barkley, who played on the legendary 1992 Dream Team and always can be counted on for strong opinions about these sorts of things, it’s a question of roster construction. In an interview with Sports360AZ.com (transcription via For The Win), Barkley said the current Olympic team is too reliant on isolation players.
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“Well, I hope they win gold. I want always us to win the gold medal. It’s not a good team to put together. I don’t think they did a good job because if you watch all those guys — they’re all good players, don’t get me wrong — they all need the ball.
“If you take away DeAndre Jordan, every guy on that team is a ball-dominant guy. You see them playing a lot of one-on-one basketball. That’s the thing I’ve noticed more than anything. Like, you have to understand when you put a team together like that, you have to have some role players. … But you take a guy like Kyle Lowry, who is a hell of a player, he wants to score. Kyrie wants to score. Kevin wants to score. DeRozan wants to score. So, I think they have been really stagnant offensively.”
Barkley isn’t wrong. This U.S. team has a phenomenal collection of talent, but not a lot of continuity. Only two players from this group – Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant – were on the London Olympic team in 2012. In fairness, a number of the most high-profile American veterans of international competition – including Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis – opted to sit out the Rio games for various reasons, which has resulted in a lot of first-timers making the team and having to mesh on short notice.
The USA has been getting by on pure talent, but a third-straight gold medal is no longer the foregone conclusion it was thought to be before the start of the tournament.