By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Team USA has been struggling this summer and those culminated with the loss to France in their Tokyo Olympics opener.
“Some moments it’s trying too hard to do the right thing. Instead of just being who we are, you know, the best players in the NBA. Shots just didn’t fall. We had opportunities down the stretch. Didn’t make them,” Damian Lillard said to describe his team’s effort.
However, he also gave big props to the French squad and its NBA stars, trying to remind people that Team USA’s opponents aren’t just some random names they’ve never seen. He was also hard on himself.
“I mean, I think for one, you got to give credit to France, you know. They got a pretty good team, too. I mean, Rudy Gobert is an (NBA) All-Star. Evan Fournier is a really good NBA player. They got guys out there that are in rotations in NBA teams. And they, you know, they just played a better game than we did. They made shots when it counted. They got deflections. I had a shot I passed up, that I should have shot. I swung it – It got stolen. A couple possessions later, I was getting ready to shoot, and I just slip and fall. I turned to try to get the ball, and my leg just lifted in the air. And as you know, the rules are different. And just a couple of things didn’t go our way down the stretch. We let one get away. But it’s a lot of things that we could have done better, including making shots.”
Lillard also added that all those NBA players they’re facing seem to play on a much higher level once they put on the national team jersey.
“And you know who we see each night sometimes in the NBA, they are completely different when they play for their countries. They got more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious. So we put ourselves in a dogfight, and they made plays to win it,” he said.
A loss hurts, of course, but it’s also a lesson and Lillard is aware of both sides of the coin. He’s also aware of the ripples it causes through the masses watching, especially when it’s Team USA that falls.
“I wouldn’t say it is unfair. I think that’s just what the expectations are when you play for Team USA. I think we have a history of dominance and, maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. It’s not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start. So, I think that’s why a lot of people make it seem like the end of the world. But our job as professionals and this team, representing our country in these Olympics, we got to do what’s necessary, and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish, and we got to make sure we keep that in mind.”