Popovich on winning gold: ‘Every championship is special, and the group you’re with is special’

At times, many thought that the Team USA men’s basketball team would not win gold in Tokyo, especially after losing exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia in Las Vegas and losing to France in their Olympic opener.

However, due to the greatness of Kevin Durant, Team USA was able to capture its fourth consecutive gold medal by defeating France 87-82 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on Saturday.

Durant, who scored 29 points in the gold medal game, was the leader for Team USA and has played a significant role in each of the last three golds. He’s scored 30 points in each of the previous two gold-medal games and now is tied with Carmelo Anthony for the most gold medals in Olympic men’s basketball history.

“I hate to compare stuff because you know everything is its own moment,” Durant said postgame. “But this is one of those special journeys that it’s just hard to describe because each and every one of us put in that work every single day, from the coaches to the trainers, to the players. We all came in with that goal of, ‘Let’s finish this thing off. Let’s build a family. Let’s build this team. Let’s grow this team every day.’ And when you are part of a team that’s evolving by the second, it’s just amazing to see.”

U.S. coach Gregg Popovich has five NBA titles, and now, he has a gold medal.

“Every championship is special, and the group you’re with is special,” he said. “But I can be honest and say this is the most responsibility I’ve ever felt because you’re playing for so many people that are watching and for your country and other countries involved. The responsibility was awesome, and I felt it every day for several years now. I’m feeling pretty light now and looking forward to getting back to the hotel and having something.”

Milwaukee Bucks teammates Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, who joined the Olympic team in the early morning hours before the U.S. played France in pool play, became the fourth and fifth players to win the NBA Finals and an Olympic gold in the same year.

According to Holiday, this was a great summer.

“Getting in at one in the morning, me, Book(Devin Booker) and Khris(Middleton), and then playing that night against France, losing that game and then being able to go through the rest of the tournament and then winning the gold medal game,” Holiday said. “I don’t know — I guess me thinking about it, and me telling that story, man, that’s a hell of a summer.”

Give this team a lot of credit. They battled hard to win a gold medal. In the end, the world has caught up. However, the United States is still the top dog in men’s basketball.

Photo: (Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)

Team USA men’s basketball team defeats Australia to advance to gold medal game

Kevin Durant is flowing right now, and Team USA men’s basketball is benefitting from it. Durant would lead the U.S. with 23 points, and Devin Booker added 20 as they would defeat Australia 97-78 in the semifinals of the 2020 Olympic Games.

With the win, the U.S. will battle France in the gold medal game on Friday.

After being down 41-26 in the second quarter with just under six minutes left, Team USA went on a 16-4 run to close the gap to 45-42 at the break. From there, Durant took control in the third quarter as he would score eight straight points for the U.S., Booker would add 11 points in the third, and ultimately, Team USA never looked back.

USA head coach Gregg Popovich was unhappy with the team’s defensive effort early in the game, but the team, led by Jrue Holiday, who had 11 points, eight assists, and eight rebounds, responded after a little constructive criticism. 

“When we pointed it out, they reacted,” Popovich said about the team’s defensive effort. “In the last five minutes of the second quarter, they were fantastic, and it continued into the third. I give them credit for understanding the game as well as being able to accept the truth. Because you can be with some players that you can tell them something, but they don’t buy it because they can’t handle certain kinds of criticism. But these guys want the truth, and they react to it.”

Duran, who scored 29 points against Spain in the quarterfinals, and passed Carmelo Anthony to become the U.S. men’s leading scorer in the Olympics, added: “I’m looking forward to going out there and executing the game plan on defense,” Durant said. “Offensively, we don’t have to worry about that. But executing the game plan defensively as a team, and we’ll see what happens.”

Getting the gold won’t be easy for Team USA, but it’s clear that they have found their stride and playing good basketball. No team out there is more talented, including France, who beat the U.S. in the preliminary round, so we’ll see if Team USA can get a little revenge and bring home the gold on Friday.

Photo: Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)
 

Team USA’s Popovich on loss to Nigeria: ‘I’m kind of glad it happened’

The last time Team USA battled Nigeria, it was not very close. Team USA defeated Nigeria 110-66 in an exhibition game back in 2016. In addition, Nigeria played the U.S. in its debut at the 2012 London Games and lost 156-73.

That was then; this is now. 

On Saturday night, Nigeria hit 20 threes, including 11/19 in the second half, to shock Team USA 90-87 in an exhibition game at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Coming into this contest, the United States was 54-2 in exhibition games. 

Nigeria head coach Mike Brown, who currently serves as associate head coach for the Golden State Warriors under USA assistant coach Steve Kerr, had his team ready on Saturday night. Nigeria has seven players that are on NBA rosters, including the Miami Heat’s Gabe Vincent(Nnamdi), who led the team with 21 points.

It was a bad loss for the U.S., but according to Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich, this loss could be what this team needed.

“In a way, I’m kind of glad it happened,” Popovich said. “It means nothing if we don’t learn from it. It could be the most important thing in this tournament for us. To learn lessons from this.”

Nigeria outhustled and outrebounded Team USA and won the battle on the glass(46-34), which Popovich discussed after the game.

“Rebounding was a problem,” Popovich said. “The stats – I almost wanted to give it back to the stat guys and say, ‘Can you do these over? There’s got to be some mistakes. Do your homework over again.’ Because I thought we got murdered on the boards. We got beat on the boards, but I thought we got murdered.”

Kevin Durant led Team USA with 17 points, and Jayson Tatum added 15 points.

Fortunately for Team USA, this was an exhibition game, so they have time to clean things up and get right for the Olympics.

The U.S. faces Australia, ranked third globally, in the second game of its pre-Olympic schedule on Monday night. 

Listen below as Popovich and Tatum discuss loss to Nigeria:

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Full roster for U.S. Olympic Basketball team announced

Led by now three-time Olympian Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets), USA Basketball unveiled on Monday its official 12-member U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team.

Selected for the U.S. Olympic Team 2020, which is seeking a fourth consecutive Olympic title, were: Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat),  Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Durant, Jerami Grant (Detroit Pistons), Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors), Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks) and Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics).

The USA coaching staff is led by head coach  Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs) with assistant coaches Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors), Lloyd Pierce and Jay Wright (Villanova University) and  Jerry Colangelo serving as the USA Men’s National Team managing director.

The U.S. roster features the return of Olympic gold medalists Durant, Green and Love. Durant and Green were members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic gold medalist squad and Durant and Love were 2012 Olympic gold medalists. Durant and Love were also part of the 2010 USA team that went 9-0 and captured the FIBA World Cup title, and Middleton and Tatum were members of the 2019 USA World Cup Team.

With his selection to the U.S. Olympic Team, Durant becomes just the fourth United States male basketball player selected to three or more Olympic teams.  Carmelo Anthony (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016) has represented and medaled for a USA men’s record four Olympics, while LeBron James (2004, 2008, 2012) and David Robinson (1988, 1992, 1996) each have three Olympic medals in as many appearances.

Durant, who also collected MVP honors in leading the USA to gold at the 2010 FIBA World Cup, has finished as the U.S. team’s leading scorer the past two Olympics – the 2012 London Olympics and the 2016 Rio Olympics. Owning the top two U.S. Olympic scoring marks (156 points in 2012 and 155 points in 2016), Durant has 16 career Olympic games under his belt and with 311 total points in Olympic games (19.4 ppg.), ranks second all-time for points scored, trailing only Anthony (336) by 25 points.

Durant in USA all-time career Olympics statistics lists first for points averaged (19.4), tied for fourth for games played (16), fifth for rebounds (86), third for most field goals made (101), third for field goals attempted (191), first for 3-point field goals made (59), second for 3-point field goals attempted (108), fourth for 3-point shooting percentage (.546%), second for free throws made (50), fourth for free throws attempted (59), 11th for assists (49), eighth for blocked shots (9) and ninth for steals (21).

The average age of the 12 U.S. players at the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympics (Aug. 8, 2021) will be 28.2, the third oldest U.S. Men’s Olympic Team in history, behind the 1996 Atlanta Olympics squad (29.4) and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Team (29.0). Included among the named U.S. Olympians were 2021 All-NBA second team selection Lillard, and third team pick Beal. Additionally, Green and Holiday collected 2021 NBA All-Defensive first team honors, while Adebayo was a second team selection. Four USA players – Beal, LaVine, Lillard and Tatum — were named as 2021 NBA All-Stars.

After opening training camp on July 6, the USA Men’s National Team will tip off a five-game exhibition series against Nigeria on July 10 (5 p.m. PDT); followed by Australia on July 12 (5 p.m. PDT); Argentina on July 13 (3 p.m. PDT); Australia for a second time on July 16 (3 p.m. PDT); and Spain on July 18 (6 p.m. PDT). All of the exhibition games will be played at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay.

NBA players react to Kevin Durant’s epic performance against Milwaukee

The Brooklyn Nets needed Kevin Durant to be extra special and then some on Tuesday night, and he was all of that and maybe a little more.

Without Kyrie Irving and a limited James Harden, Durant put on a performance for the ages. The former MVP had a triple-double with 49 points on 16/23 shooting, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists as the Nets rallied to defeat the Bucks 114-108 at Barclays Center in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series.  

Durant, who played all 48 minutes, became the first player in NBA playoff history to have 45-plus points, 15-plus rebounds, and 10-plus assists in a game. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Durant’s 49 points are the second-most in a triple-double game in playoff history.

“I was trying to win each possession,” Durant said after the game. “And I didn’t think of how many points I had or shot attempts, rebounds, assists.”

The Nets have a 3-2 series lead, and Game 6 is on Thursday night in Milwaukee.

The Bucks, who had a 17-point third-quarter lead, will be kicking themselves all summer long if they lose this series. This was a golden opportunity for Milwaukee to put themselves in a position to close out the series in Game 6. Now, they have to win two straight, including one at Barclays Center, to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Regarding Durant, this might have been his signature moment. The Nets needed every one of his 49 points on Tuesday night. However, with Harden still not looking one-hundred-percent and Irving probably out for the series, Durant might need to have another big performance for Brooklyn to advance.

Don’t bet against the greatness of Durant. He has the potential to do this again, and don’t bet against the Bucks.

This series is not over!

 NBA players from around the league were impressed by Durant’s special performance:

The Nets could be in trouble against Milwaukee

In Game 3, the Brooklyn Nets, who were up 2-0 in their best-of-seven second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, had an 83-80 lead with under two minutes to go. However, Milwaukee outscored the Nets 6-0 to finish the game, including a Jrue Holiday layup to put them up for good as they defeated the Nets 86-83. 

Brooklyn was so close to taking a commanding 3-0 lead, and that’s why it’s so important to close teams out when you have a chance.

On Sunday at Fiserv Forum, the Bucks defeated the Nets 107-96 in Game 4. The series is now tied at 2. The pivotal Game 5 is Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately for the Nets, they might be without James Harden(hamstring) and Kyrie Irving(ankle). Harden has not been active since injuring his right hamstring in Game 1 of this series, which was the same hamstring that forced him to miss time in the regular season, and Irving left Game 4 in the second quarter and did not return after turning his ankle on a layup attempt. Irving reportedly left the arena in a walking boot and crutches.

“It was a big adjustment tonight to play without him(Irving) and James(Harden), but we’ve had that type of year,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said after Game 4. “So, we have to find a way to figure it out, to look at the tape and get better.”

With Irving and Durant, the Nets were able to take a 2-0 series lead. Without Harden and Irving, the pressure is on Durant to be at his best, and Durant is good enough to carry this team to victory in one game, but he’s not good enough to do it over the final three games of this series, and while Durant did score 28 points in Game 4, he did shoot 9-25 from the field and seemed bothered by the defense of Milwaukee’s P.J. Tucker, but again, this is Durant, so we know he can bounce back.

The momentum is clearly on the side of the Bucks. Without Harden and Irving, the Bucks are the more talented team, but this is why home-court advantage is vital because role players tend to be better at home, so that means guys like Joe Harris, Bruce Brown, and Landry Shamet could step up for Brooklyn.

But in the end, no Harden, no Irving, could mean the Nets’ season could end in the second- round of the playoffs, which would be a huge disappointment.

 

 

Report: Warriors trade Andre Iguodala to Grizzlies

The Golden State will look a lot different next season. On Sunday afternoon, Kevin Durant made the announcement that he was headed to Brooklyn to join the Nets. Late Sunday night, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Warriors had acquired D’Angelo Russell from the Nets in a sign-and-trade for Kevin Durant. It’s a four-year, $117 million max contract for Russell, according to the report.

Finally, according to Wojnarowski, Golden State shipped Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies.

This is a lot to unpack, and there could be some more moving parts, but here is what you need to know for now; Durant to Brooklyn, Russell to Golden State, and Iguodala to Memphis.

What a day!

Kevin Durant to sign with the Brooklyn Nets

Kevin Durant is going to Brooklyn. Durant made the announcement via Instagram. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s a four-year, $164 million deal. Durant is expected to miss all of next season due to a torn Achilles tendon.

Also, according to Wojnarowski, Kyrie Irving is expected to sign with the Nets. It will be a four-year, $141 million deal, according to the report.

Both Durant and Irving’s deals won’t be official until July 6.

With Irving and Durant in the fold, the Nets will be formidable for years to come. However, next season, they are probably not a championship caliber team because Durant is expected to miss next season, but it’s still happy times in Brooklyn.

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