LONDON — As much as they wanted to revel in the accomplishment and celebrate all of the U.S. and Olympic records that were toppled in their 83-point win over Nigeria Thursday night, in the minutes immediately following the game you could sense some growing disenchantment with the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team’s 156-73 thrashing of Nigeria.
The line of questioning after the game, mostly from international journalists, was more about the U.S. abandoning the Olympic spirit in strangling an opponent than it was the nine records Carmelo Anthony and Co. set.
U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski shook his head when the question was asked of both Ike Diogu and Nigeria coach Ayo Barake if they felt they were being purposely humiliated by the U.S. and their 29 made 3-pointers.
“Obviously, the first thing we did was not play LeBron [James] and Kobe [Bryant] in the second half,” he said. “Second thing, with Carmelo shooting the way he did, we benched him. We didn’t play [Kevin] Durant, we didn’t take any fast breaks in the fourth quarter and we played all zone. You have to take a shot every 24 seconds and it just so happens the shots we took hit. And I take offense to his question, because there’s no way in the world that our program in the United States is ever out to humiliate anyone. And Coach [Barake] would think it humiliating if we didn’t play hard. The score is irrelevant to us, we just want to play well and win.”
Krzyzewski nailed it on this one. The U.S. shouldn’t ease up on anyone. They are playing by the same rules every other team in this competition is playing by. Sure, they have a stacked deck for sure with the best roster of anyone here. But that doesn’t mean they have an obligation to show any restraint on the court. These are real games, with medals on the line for the winners. These aren’t “friendlies.”
And for anyone pining for a 23-under rule finding its way into the basketball competition the way they it has the Olympic soccer competition, you should know that the U.S. has gold medal teams at every age group. Oh, and the best 23-year-old player on the planet is Durant, the NBA’s reigning and three-time scoring champ.
So technically, there is no “fair fight” to be had in Olympic basketball. Not right now.