For the United States men’s basketball team, their road to a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics was unfamiliar to the ones of the past. For one, many of the familiar faces that had become staples of Team USA were not a part of the 2021 Olympic roster. James Harden, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, and a host of other players elected not to participate in the Tokyo Olympics.
In addition, Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski who was the head coach of the United States men’s basketball club from 2008-2016 elected not to coach in this year’s Olympics. He was replaced by San Antonio Spurs head coach and five-time NBA champion Gregg Popovich.
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Kevin Durant & Draymond Green Call Out Team USA Doubters
Despite all of the new additions to the men’s basketball club, Team USA was able to overcome a rocky start to the Olympics and capture the gold medal on Friday in an 87-82 victory over France. There were questions on if Team USA could get it done with this roster after dropping their first two exhibition games. It might be safe to say that Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant heard all of the whispers as he and his teammate Draymond Green called out their doubters in an expletive-laced Instagram live video after the win.
“Everybody who said we were going to take the L . . . They had some power rankings out. They had us fourth behind Slovenia. Come on, man,” Durant said after the win. “Shoutout to everybody that won this gold, everybody that chipped in and helped out. We’re going to the press conference, but I had to talk my s*** real quick.”
Green also chipped in and called out Durant’s former teammate and ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins who had been particularly critical of Team USA’s play over the last few weeks.
“Kendrick Perkins, you talk a lot of s***. A lot of s***,” Green added. “Act like you’re American.”
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Gregg Popovich Sends High Praise to Kevin Durant
Durant, who had a slow start to the Olympics, proved once again that he is indeed one of, if not the best basketball player in the world. Durant scored just 10 points in each of Team USA’s first two group phase games but scored at least 20 points in the United States’ last four games including a huge 29 points against France in the gold medal game.
Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich got his first opportunity to coach Durant at length in this year’s Olympics. While KD’s talent jumps off the page Popovich says that isn’t what makes him special, but rather his work ethic because it is infectious to those around him.
“He’s not special because he’s so talented,” Popovich said per Barry Svrlugar of The Washington Post. “The way he works on his game is more impressive. The relationships he builds with teammates. The respect he garners. The joy he has in playing. It’s like osmosis. It goes into all the other players and allows you to build a camaraderie.”
KD may have fallen short in his quest to capture his third NBA title this season but capturing his third gold medal is one hell of a consolation prize.