Fresh off a defeat to Australia on Tuesday, Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t in an indulgent mood.
The American basketball team had just suffered its second consecutive loss in the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics, having fallen to Nigeria last week.
The game against Australia was locked at 80 points apiece with five minutes to play, but the Boomers went on a late run to win 91-83, recording their second ever victory over the US.
During the post-match press conference, a reporter asked star player Damian Lillard a seemingly innocuous question.
“What’s it like, having watched your colleagues go through some of these tournaments and blow these teams out, and now you are experiencing a different, closer, tougher experience?” asked The Athletic’s Joe Vardon.
Lillard gave a diplomatic answer, speaking about the increase in NBA players spread across other teams. Then Popovich interjected.
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Gregg Popovich watching on during the game against Australia. Picture: Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“Let me also answer that question,” Popovich said.
“You asked the same sort of question last time, where you assume things that aren’t true. When you just mentioned blowing these teams out, that’s never happened. So I don’t know where you get that.”
The reporter attempted to explain where, in fact, he got it from. For example, Team USA just lost to Nigeria, whom they beat by 83 points at the London Olympics less than a decade ago.
Popovich spoke over him.
“Can I finish? Can I finish my statement? Are you going to let me finish my statement or not?” he said.
“So you’ll be quiet now while I talk. And then I’ll listen to you.
“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 last time about the same thing. We’ve had very close games against four or five countries in all these tournaments. So the good teams do not get blown out.
“There are certain games it might happen in one of the tournaments, the World Championships or the Olympics, when somebody gets blown out. But in general, nobody is blowing anybody out for the good teams.
“So when you make a statement like that, it’s like, you assume what’s going on. And that is incorrect.”
Australian Dante Exum being guarded by Team USA’s Zach LaVine. Picture: Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Nick Kay grabs a rebound against Darius Garland. Picture: Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Australia now has a 2-28 all-time record against the US, our other win coming in an exhibition game before the World Championships in 2019.
The Americans are now facing serious questions ahead of the Olympics.
Their offence against Australia was labelled “embarrassing” by NBA commentator Rob Perez, with the team struggling to find alternatives to Lillard’s long-range shots.
The US had lost just two official exhibition games since professional NBA players started to represent the national team in 1992. In the space of three days, its exhibition record in that time has gone from 54-2 to 54-4.
This is just the third time the US has suffered back-to-back defeats since 1992.
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