Gone are the days when the United States’ athleticism and deep talent alone would suffice to dominate rivals in basketball.
US head coach Steve Kerr acknowledged that the sport which was invented by an American is no longer their domain.
Other countries, especially European nations, have taken basketball to a whole new level, evolving it to fit their strengths and counter the Americans’ style of play.
“It just means the game has been globalized over the last 30 years or so and you know, these games are difficult. This is not 1992 anymore,” Kerr said after the US made an exit in the semifinal of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
“So, players are better all over the world, teams are better and it’s not easy to win a World Cup or the Olympic Games,” he added.
The five-time champion US bowed to unbeaten Germany, 111-113, last Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena to miss the championship round for the second straight edition of the World Cup since the Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving-led squad won it all in 2014 in Madrid.
Stripped of veterans and legitimate National Basketball Association superstars, the Americans struggled to keep up with organized, pass-first and defensively-sound European squads.
They did have strings of blowout wins but had trouble intimidating the unfazed Lithuanians, who handed the Americans their first tournament loss, 110-104, in the second round, and the Dennis Schroder and Franz Wagner-bannered Germany.
Against the Germans, US trailed by as much as 12, fought back with a late rally to come within four only to turn the ball over with 27 seconds left when Anthony Edwards threw a bad pass.
Kerr also rued his team’s defensive lapses.
“Yeah, that was the main point of the loss. We weren’t able ever to make them feel us defensively,” he said.
“I give Dennis Schroder a ton of credit, I think he’s a really tough guard to handle, he’s really quick, he can get the ball and penetrate constantly and that really threatens your defense and compromises the defense and I thought we made some mistakes,” Kerr added as his squad was also pummeled off the offensive boards that Germany converted to 25 second chance points.
Now what’s left for Kerr and the US is to salvage a bronze medal against neighbor Canada today at 4:30 p.m.