LONDON – Based strictly on the tone of the questions lobbed their way in the aftermath of their blowout win over France in their Olympic opener Sunday, you’d have thought the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team squeezed out a win on a last second shot in overtime instead of rolling by 27 points.
Such is the weight of expectations, their own and everyone else’s, especially those who remember the men in the USA uniforms that came 20 years before them.
A 22-21 lead after one quarter was cause for concern by some, but not the U.S. Team.
“That’s not how we operate,” LeBron James said. “That’s what you all [the media] do.”
James said he will make sure his team remains unfazed by anyone else’s expectation of what this team can or should do. Instead, they will remain locked and loaded on whatever the task at hand is and not pay any attention to what comes beyond.
That attitude is what made it so easy for the U.S. to shift into another gear against France after struggling to pull away early.
“We can take it to another level,” Kevin Durant said. “I know we can. We were sloppy and probably a little too aggressive [against France], we got into silly foul trouble and that slowed us down a little bit. But we can play better than we did, much better.”
Any suggestions that Durant and other members of the U.S. team making their Olympic debuts might have been a bit nervous, and that was what contributed to their uneven start, were dismissed by U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“These guys don’t have jitters,” he said. “There was an adjustment to a new venue and the way the game was administered, but this was a really good day for us, a good first step.”
As much as it has been discussed in the lead-up to the Games, there doesn’t seem to be much willingness to play the comparison game with the original Dream Team now that the competition has begun. And yet, everything this team does will no doubt be compared to what transpired 20 years ago in Barcelona.
The focus, as James mentioned, however, won’t be on that former U.S. Olympic Team. Not if James and Carmelo Anthony, the only two veterans on this team to experience defeat in the Olympics, have anything to say about it.
Anthony admitted that the memories from Athens and the disappointment of the team’s performance in the 2004 Summer Games remain in the back of his mind at all times.
“Absolutely,” Anthony said. “I talk to KD and [Russell] Westbrook about it all of the time. They always ask me, ‘how was it in 2004.’ And I’m not the one to blow smoke at nobody, so I tell them exactly how it was. It wasn’t a great feeling in 2004. It was an embarrassment, a defeating moment, like someone stuck a pin in a balloon and it just burst. We don’t want to have that feeling again, we don’t want to experience that, so that’s why as we go through this whole experience right now we keep that in the back of our minds.”