America versus the world in basketball, is the empire reeling? – France 24

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Tokyo (AFP)

Some disturbing symptoms and various certainties suggest that the United States basketball team is not untouchable in the Olympic tournament that begins Sunday. Spain and Argentina, world champion and runner-up, classics like France and Australia, or Luka Doncic’s Slovenia are waiting to sink their teeth into him.

Talent is left over from the group led by Gregg Popovich, although far from the teams that won gold in Beijing-2008 and London-2012, led both times by legends Lebron James and Kobe Bryant.

Only Kevin Durant, the big star in Tokyo, and Draymond Green survive from the title in Rio-2016.

– ‘Punch in the mouth’ –

And from here, the doubts. A short preparation, marked by casualties and problems related to covid-19 – only eight players have come down in the initial expedition to Tokyo -, translated into two initial defeats against Nigeria and Australia, straightened out with the triumphs against Argentina and Spain.

“I feel like we’re going to do well when we start playing real games, so it was a good thing to get punched in the mouth early to remind us that this is not going to be a walk,” Durant said Tuesday, expecting that NBA finalists join the roster; Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton (of the Bucks champions), and Devin Bucker (Suns).

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With these cards on the table and after signing his worst historical position in this competition two years ago at the World Cup in China with a seventh place, the difference between the NBA and the world seems to be narrowing.

“The gold is already reserved. If the USA plays to their full potential, nobody can win the medal,” he said after losing the Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo in what seems like a tactical move before the moment of truth.

Spain and its great generation led by Pau Gasol have always clashed with the United States at the Olympic Games. In Athens-2004 in the quarterfinals, in Beijing and London in two memorable finals and in Rio in the semifinals.

The world champions know that to a match and with FIBA ​​(International Basketball Federation) rules they have at least one option.

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Like Argentina, with morale soaring thanks to its new golden generation, although led by 41-year-old survivor Luis Scola, like Pau Gasol, both about to play their fifth Games.

The pivot is joined by the new NBA batch with Facundo Campazzo (Nuggets), Gabriel Deck (Thunders), Luca Vildoza (Knicks) and Leandro Bolmaro (whose rights belong to the Wolves).

“We should not carry more responsibility. We have to go step by step. It seems like a cliché, but it is like that and, in our case, it has always been fundamental,” Campazzo said during the preparation, avoiding anticipated euphoria.

– The ‘group of death’ –

Argentina will share ‘group of death’ with Spain, Slovenia and host Japan. In a new format, only the first two of each of the three keys secure the fourths, plus the two best third parties.

With Doncic installed as an NBA star, the small European country can only look at the medals.

The United States will share key A with France, against which it debuts on Sunday, Iran and the Czech Republic, while Germany, Italy, Nigeria and Australia depart from key B.

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The oceanic team arrives with ambition and seven NBAs in its ranks, from its standard bearer Patty Mills to the efficient forward of the Jazz Joe Ingles.

France also aspires to play metal, with Jazz star Rudy Gobert surrounded by talented players such as Thomas Heurtel, Evan Fournier or Nando De Colo, along with captain Nicolas Batum.