World reacts to Team USA stunner

 

No gold. No medal. No more winning streak.

The US reign atop international basketball has ended - this time, thwarted by France at the World Cup.

For the first time since 2006, the US sent NBA players to a major international tournament and won't win gold.

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Evan Fournier scored 22 points, Rudy Gobert had 21 points and 16 rebounds and France beat the US 89-79 in the World Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday, rallying from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull off the upset.

Here's how the world reacted.

THE US MEDIA

Gregg Popovich talks with his players. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Gregg Popovich talks with his players. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Most of the analysis from the American press focused on the players who opted not to take part in the tournament.

The US fielded a third-string outfit as a host of big names chose to stay home and paid the price - although it provided a convenient excuse.

"USA Basketball's plan for a third consecutive World Cup title started going off the rails long before this tournament even began, after just about everyone who was originally asked to play for this team turned down the opportunity. As such, this outcome was not exactly unexpected," the AP's Tim Dahlberg wrote.

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"The better team won. But the best team was at home. Of the 35 players originally picked last year by USA Basketball for its roster pool this summer, four made it to China. The group that ultimately got assembled for this mission was a bunch of guys not even on the radar screens when this selection process began, a group that decided playing with and against really good players all summer - while getting coached by Gregg Popovich - was worth giving up nearly two months of an off-season. They played hard. But there's no medal for playing hard."

"This tournament was the first time since before the Dream Team that the Americans didn't have the best player (Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo). As if that weren't strange enough, they also didn't have the second best player (Serbia's Nikola Jokic). They might not have even had the third best player (France's Rudy Gobert)," added the Wall Street Journal's Ben Cohen wrote.

"Team USA had more NBA starters than stars, and it showed. The Americans were still the favourites, but there had never been less of a talent gap between them and the rest of the planet.

"The glaring weaknesses of Team USA revealed themselves at the worst possible time. They didn't have someone like Durant, James or Kobe Bryant to bend the game to his will, and they didn't have the shooting to compensate for not having size. With their margin for error already minuscule, Team USA went 4-of-11 from the free-throw line and 1-of-5 from the 3-point line in the fourth quarter, and they went from down 10 to up seven to down 10 again as the buzzer sounded.

"NBA basketball and FIBA basketball are like spinach and kale. They look similar. But they taste and feel completely different. And one is beginning to leave a bitter taste for the Americans."

No, you lost. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
No, you lost. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

The Score's Andrew Joe Potter ranked it as the fourth worst defeat in the country's history, behind the 2004 Olympics and 2002 and 2006 world championship defeats that prompted a rethink about how the US approached international basketball.

"An 89-79 loss is still a blight for the only country in the tournament comprised entirely of current NBA players," he wrote. "Whether this sparks an organisational overhaul or reinvigorates top-tier stars to participate in future tournaments remains to be seen."

"There's no need to tear apart USA Basketball just yet. The Americans deserve a chance to right themselves for the Olympics," wrote Time Magazine's Sean Gregory. "If they lose in Tokyo? Then there's no time for rest. It's time to start sending America's dozen very best players to the Olympics. Only a true Dream Team could save the USA."

"This has to be a joke, right?" tweeted Fox's Kyle Becker. "No way Team USA should be losing to France at ANYTHING except smelly BO or overripe cheese."

TEAM USA

The members of the team in China took the defeat with humility. "Just got to take it like a man at this point," US guard Kemba Walker said. "We lost. There's nothing we can do. We competed. We've been competing since day one that we got to training camp. But we gave it everything we've got. I know we're Team USA and things of that nature and they've been winning for a lot of years, but you know, we didn't get a chance to pull it off."

"I know that people are going to focus on who we didn't have, but how about we focus on who we do have?" US guard Donovan Mitchell said after his 29-point performance. "Our season ended, and we came out ready to work with Coach Pop and all his coaches. It's not about who's not here. I've been saying that for a while.

"We have 12 guys who are going to compete for America, just like every country," Mitchell said. "It sucks that some of our country people don't feel that way about us, but we don't care. We're going to compete."

"At the end of the day, you've got to tip your cap to them," US guard Joe Harris said. "They outplayed us. They deservedto win. We certainly didn't deserve to win that game."

"Any loss hurts," US coach Gregg Popovich said. "And in this situation, it hurts more. But life goes on. This is very important and we would have loved to have won … but we're all grown, we all have families and lives and life goes on."

THE FRENCH

The reaction of the French players said a lot about how they viewed the US challenge: this was just a step towards a greater goal not the end result.

"We came here to win gold," Gobert said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy. A lot of people counted us out, but we got the win."

"It doesn't mean anything if you don't win in the end," Gobert added.

"We beat the US, and that's huge, but we haven't won anything yet," Nicolas Batum said.

 

 

News Corp Australia

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