The BEIJING — As he trudged lower back to the locker room in the bowels of Cadillac Arena, desiring to deliver one final post-game cope with to his humbled United States guys’ basketball group, Coach Gregg Popovich appeared up and felt a need to forestall.
The United States had just been forced to accept 7th place inside the FIBA World Cup, by means of beating Poland, 87-seventy four. Popovich spotted A.J. Slaughter, an American-born shield on the Polish group, and couldn’t allow him to get away without meting out a few recommendations first.
“Tell them to pay you more,” Popovich informed Slaughter.
It turns out Popovich and Slaughter had been not precisely strangers inside the Beijing night. Long earlier than they had been combatants right here Saturday, Slaughter had auditioned for Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs main as much as the 2010 N.B.A. Draft. The former Western Kentucky superstar, who received Polish citizenship in 2015, also spent the ultimate two seasons gambling for a team in France owned by means of the longtime Spurs protect Tony Parker.
“We got a few connections,” Slaughter said with a laugh.
Nothing, though, could pretty prepare the Kentucky-born Slaughter for this occasion.
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The same held for Mike Taylor, Poland’s American instruct. Neither of them, for much of their lives, ever imagined representing Poland — or competing towards America in this type of stage.
Or, frankly, seeing an American group filled with N.B.A. Players fall to the depths of a seventh-vicinity recreation.
“It’s the type of tough on both facets,” Slaughter said. “It’s nearly unreal.”
Of course, for Popovich and U.S.A. Basketball, there has been no dodging how actual this past week has been. Just whilst the Americans concept they have been eventually constructing momentum, after weeks of headlines approximately all the massive N.B.A. Names who refused to play and after encouraging 2nd-round wins over Greece and Brazil, they suffered a stunning quarterfinal loss to France.
That was followed through a comfort-bracket loss to Serbia on the second one night of an again-to-again — with the Serbians gambling after days of rest.
Serbia defeated the Czech Republic, 90-eighty one, in Saturday night time’s fifth-vicinity recreation, hours after the United States (6-2) secured 7th behind robust performances from Donovan Mitchell (sixteen factors, 10 assists) and the Nets’ Joe Harris (14 factors).
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“If you don’t win, a few people will play the blame sport,” Popovich said. “There’s no blame to be positioned everywhere. They play the shame game — like we ought to be ashamed due to the fact we didn’t win a gold medal? That’s a daft mindset. It’s immature. It’s boastful.”
The United States arrived in China looking for to become the first state to win three World Cups in a row. Popovich has railed at critics of the gamers who stayed domestic, however, truely even he in no way predicted that a 3rd instantly title could be so far out of attaining.
The trouble, of the route, is that the Americans additionally landed with most effective two current All-Stars — Boston’s Kemba Walker and Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton — to offset severa roster holes.
Poland, playing in its first World Cup due to the fact 1967, and without the veteran N.B.A. Middle Marcin Gortat, illustrated just how little fear this organization of United States players stimulated with the aid of retaining a good deal of the second one 1/2 near after falling in the back of by using 17 factors at intermission.
The Poles missed their first 13 3-point tries, but they in no way surrendered, thanks to Mateusz Ponitka (18 factors), Adam Kaczynski (17) and Slaughter (15).
Taylor, for his part, might be visible mouthing the phrases to the United States’ national anthem before tipoff. He had come a protracted way in view that his days coaching Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany’s lower divisions, whilst he used to ship lengthy email reports approximately his crew — unsolicited — to American coaches, pals and reporters. He becomes desperate to hold some degree of touch with domestic.
Poland’s unexpected run to the final eight in this 32-crew event precipitated Taylor to promise his players he would do “whatever they need” if they might deliver one extra surprise and disenchanted the Americans. The near-unanimous response from his crew: Take on Polish citizenship.
Yet Kaczynski, in defeat, insisted that wouldn’t be vital.
“He’s already Polish,” Kaczynski said. “It’s obvious.”
The subsequent steps for the U.S.A. Basketball is less so.
Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors informed CNBC in advance this week that he meant to make himself to be had for the 2020 Olympics in Japan. Stephen Curry, Green’s Golden State teammate, is also predicted to volunteer his services, given that Curry has yet to play in an Olympics.
“We’ve had a number of indicators about guys who need to play subsequent summer season,” said Jerry Colangelo, U.S.A.B.’s managing director. “But we had quite a few symptoms that many desired to play this summer season.”
James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Kevin Love, and Andre Drummond are a few of the stars who, to begin with, committed to play for Popovich earlier than withdrawing. A variety of reasons were referred to, inclusive of making ready for subsequent season, however, apathy about this precise opposition as compared to the Olympics undeniably became a factor.
Mitchell, taken into consideration one of the few favorites from the modern squad to earn a gap on next summer season’s 12-man roster for Tokyo, stated the World Cup revel in “turned into absolutely really worth it,” despite the heavy grievance he and his teammates have absorbed for the worst-ever tournament end with N.B.A. Gamers.
“Some of those guys who I may not have had a risk to recognize otherwise at the moment are a number of my closest pals,” Harris said.
Said Popovich: “It’s now not written in stone that America is supposed to walk to a championship. That’s a quite antique-college questioning.