Coach Gregg Popovich has deflected talk about his missing megastars after Team USA’s glorious run in major competition came to a juddering halt at the hands of France.
The US lost to Greece in the World Cup semi-finals in 2006 but then went on a 58-game winning streak with NBA players on the roster that brought them three Olympic golds and two World Cup crowns.
But they became just the latest high-profile casualty in China as the powerhouses of basketball went down 89-79 in the quarter-finals to France.
Live stream every game the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup with KAYO on your TV, Mobile, Tablet or Laptop. Get your 14 day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Much of the pre-tournament talk surrounding Team USA was about the top-tier talent that wasn’t there — players like Anthony Davis, James Harden, Bradley Beal, Dame Lillard, and Kevin Love all withdrew for a varietyreasons.
But Popovich wasn’t having any of it.
“I think it’s a disrespectful notion to even bring something like that up,” Popovich said. “That ‘well, hey, you guys didn’t have this guy or that guy!’ That’s disrespectful to France or whoever else is in the tournament.
“France beat us. It doesn’t matter who was on the team.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these 12 guys who sacrificed their summer to come here having never played together before, and they put themselves in the arena and competed and they deserve credit for that. Just like France deserves credit for winning.
“It’s not about ‘well, the United States didn’t have their other guys.’ There’s no such thing as other guys. These are the guys that were here, and they did a great job, and I’m very proud of them.”
In a hint of the sniping that may result in the United States, shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, who led the Americans with 29 points, hit back at critics.
“You guys are going to go on and say who we didn’t have, but why don’t you all focus on who we do have?” he asked reporters.