SAITAMA, Japan (AP) – Kevin Durant was Brooklyn’s top scorer last season. Ditto for Damian Lillard in Portland, Devin Booker in Phoenix, Jayson Tatum in Boston, Zach LaVine in Chicago and Jerami Grant in Detroit.
At home it’s probably all the guys with the ball when the games are on.
In the Olympics, that will not be the case.
Getting players to move into new roles isn’t a new issue for USA Basketball, as virtually every team that the national sports governing body brings together – at every level – features those who are used to it. to be the star of their high school, college or pro teams. But for the US men’s team chosen to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, figuring out what those roles are and how the pieces fit best is still a work in progress.
“Alpha, leader, I mean that stuff changes from game to game,” said Durant, already a two-time Olympic gold medalist. “Guys are getting hot. Different guys can guide us in the scoring. … Everyone participates.
Durant’s point was clear: someone has to lead in every game, but it doesn’t always have to be the same. The United States (0-1) face Iran (0-1) on Wednesday in a Group A match at Saitama, favorite to win the match in a landslide by FanDuel, and it could be the occasion for the both to create momentum and roles to become more clearly defined in the future.
“It’s a challenge figuring out how to stay aggressive while playing for the team,” US assistant coach Lloyd Pierce said on Tuesday. “A lot of these guys are used to a lot of shots, more minutes, more opportunities and now they’re playing with a great player to their right and a great player to their left.
“So we need them to be as confident as they always are. We need them to do it as a unit, and we need them to learn that they don’t have to do the same place they have on NBA teams, but they have to have the same mentality and the same state of mind.
And it was not there Sunday.
The United States shot just 36% in their opening loss to France, the worst percentage for any of 12 teams in their respective first Olympic contests in Saitama.
The Americans’ 76 points were the second lowest of any team (Nigeria only scored 67) – and the second-lowest point total of all games for an American men’s team at the Olympics during over the past 45 years. The Americans scored 73 in a loss to Puerto Rico to open the 2004 Olympics, the most recent in which the United States failed to win gold.
Durant said the Americans spent much of their training time Monday and Tuesday working on the offensive.
“I look forward to tomorrow,” he said.
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