Tagged in: Kevin Durant

Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, responding to Kevin Durant trade speculation, says ‘I love our team,’ doesn’t wear GM hat

As speculation surrounding Kevin Durant’s future continues to hover over the NBA, Boston Celtics star swingman Jayson Tatum made it clear that as much as he respects Durant’s game, he is happy with how his team stands now.

“I played with [Durant] during the Olympics,” Tatum stated Tuesday night prior to the premiere of the Showtime documentary “Point Gods.” “Obviously, he’s a great player, but that’s not my decision. I love our team. I love the guys that we got.”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported early Monday that the Celtics were among the teams to engage in talks with the Nets regarding Durant’s availability, after the two-time Finals MVP requested a trade from Brooklyn last month.

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Regarding the discussions surrounding Durant and the Celtics, Tatum stated he doesn’t “make anything of it” and emphasized several times during a brief question-and-answer session with a small group of reporters that he is happy with Boston’s roster as currently constructed.

“We got two new pieces [in Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari],” Tatum said. “I love our team. I just go out there and play with my teammates. I don’t put that [general manager] hat on to make decisions.”

Durant, who is an executive producer on the documentary, did not stop to speak to reporters.

He took a few photos on the carpet prior to the premiere, but quickly walked into the theater.

Durant’s manager and business partner, Rich Kleiman, also an executive producer on the documentary, declined to discuss the star’s request to be traded.

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Brooklyn Nets expect Kevin Durant to miss 4-6 weeks with sprained MCL

After the Brooklyn Nets diagnosed All-NBA forward Kevin Durant with a sprained MCL of his left knee, the franchise expects a four- to six-week rehabilitation before his come back, sources told ESPN.

Durant underwent imaging on Sunday morning after Saturday night’s injury, and a realistic benchmark for Durant could be a return following the All-Star break (Feb. 18-23), sources said. Nevertheless, the organization will err on the side of caution when it comes to Durant’s return.

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There was relief around the Nets that the injury wasn’t more serious, and hopefulness that he will make a full return to health in plenty of time for the playoffs. Durant left Saturday night’s game after teammate Bruce Brown fell into his knee on a play in the second quarter.

Brooklyn plays 11 of its next 14 games on the road, and thus it expects to have a Kyrie Irving-James Harden backcourt together for those matches. Irving is playing only road games because of his status as an unvaccinated player.

The Nets won 16 of 19 games last season when they had Irving and Harden together, but no Durant, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Durant has had an MVP-caliber season, averaging a league-leading 29.3 points, along with 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists.

Brooklyn (27-15) is a half-game behind the Chicago Bulls for first place in the Eastern Conference.

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With Harden out, Trail Blazers down the Nets 114-108

Anfernee Simons had 23 points and 11 assists, and the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers took advantage of James Harden’s absence for a 114-108 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.

Harden was out with a hyperextended left knee. Kyrie Irving started in his second match of the season and finished with 22 points. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets.

Robert Covington had 21 points, including five 3-pointers, for the Blazers, who saw all five starters score in double figures.

Simons stated Covington’s play against Durant boosted the team.

“I think RoCo did a good job of playing him the second half,” Simons said. “So that was that was big for us to slow him down and just kind of play team defense. We’ve been playing very hard, we’ve been making a lot less mistakes on defense. That’s been helping us.”

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Monday’s game was initially scheduled for Dec. 23 but was postponed because of COVID-19 issues.

In making up the game, both teams were playing the second of back-to-backs.

Portland led 87-81 going into the final quarter. Covington’s 3-pointer put Portland up 107-100 with 2:15 to go but the Nets closed within 110-105 down the stretch.

Ben McLemore’s 3 with 31.9 seconds left made it 113-105 and sealed it for Portland. McLemore finished with 20 points and five 3s.

“Certainly nobody in the world thought that we would win this game with the guys that we have missing, even though they’re missing some important players too,” Portland first-year coach Chauncey Billups said. “I’m more happy than anything for our team, to be honest. We’ve suffered a lot of losses in this building, a lot of bad losses.”

The Blazers again were without Damian Lillard, out with lower abdominal tendinopathy, and backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, who has been out for 14 games after a collapsed lung. Fellow starters Norman Powell (COVID-19 protocols) and Larry Nance Jr. (right knee) were also out for Portland.

Meanwhile, Nets coach Steve Nash said the team was being cautious with Harden in a dense stretch of games and that Harden should be available on Wednesday at Chicago.

Irving, who has refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine and is barred from playing in New York due to the city’s vaccine mandate, has resumed playing on the road. For his first game last week at Indiana, he finished with 22 points in nearly 32 minutes.

Irving appeared to tweak his ankle in the fourth quarter but afterward said he was fine and would play Wednesday. He criticized Portland’s Nassir Little for diving on the play: “I tried to get out of the way but I just felt like it was unnecessary for him to dive that far away from the ball.”

Brooklyn led 62-55 at the break, paced by Durant with 20 points. It was his 19th straight game with 20 or more points, the second-longest streak of 20-point games in Nets history.

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Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving shows early rust, finishes with 22 in debut vs. Pacers

Kyrie Irving provided the emotional lift the Brooklyn Nets were hoping to see in his season debut Wednesday night in a 129-121 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Not only did Irving show flashes of his old form, posting 22 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes, he offered a reminder of just how dangerous the Nets can be when he shares the floor with Kevin Durant and James Harden.

With Irving hitting several crucial baskets down the stretch, the Nets erased what was a 19-point Pacers lead on their way to the victory.

After it was over, Irving admitted having some nerves in his return but said he was just happy to be on the floor after missing the first three months of the year.

“Just a lot of gratitude just to be present tonight with everyone,” Irving said. “Just go out there and have fun doing what we love to do. It was a not-so-good first half for us, and we came in the locker room and we knew that in order to build this identity that we want to have later in the season we got to start now.”

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Irving, who isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19, making him ineligible to play in home matches because of New York City’s vaccine mandate, wasn’t on the floor to start the season because the Nets decided before the season that they didn’t want to have a part-time player. However, after a COVID-19 outbreak decimated the Nets’ roster, the decision was made to let Irving to rejoin the team as a player who could participate only in road games.

Before getting up from the podium, Irvin smiled when asked if that meant getting vaccinated was still a possibility.

“Oh come on, man,” Irving said. “Don’t hang onto me.”

With Irving back on the court Wednesday night, the Nets’ offense looked dynamic at times again with so many All-Stars on the floor.

Durant, who scored a game-high 39 points, said it was “incredible” to have Irving back.

Irving showed a little early rust in the first quarter, going 0-for-3 from the field with two turnovers, but he settled in and started to find a rhythm.

Harden said he knows it’s going to take a little more time for the Nets to come together with Irving back in the fold, but the sense of belief Irving brought back to the floor was palpable.

“It’s special,” Harden said. “It felt like he’s been playing all season. He looked comfortable as usual, his pace, his rhythm. It looked like Kyrie.”

Several players and coaches echoed that sentiment after watching Irving go back to work. Irving’s next game will be next Monday in Portland, in a game that was originally scheduled to be played on Dec. 23 but had to be postponed because the Nets were dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nets coach Steve Nash stated he is hopeful he can keep ramping up Irving’s minutes as the Nets look to maintain the momentum they found in the fourth quarter, when Irving had 10 points and helped the Nets outscore the Pacers 35-20.

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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash says ‘good chance’ Kevin Durant exits COVID-19 protocol this week

While Kevin Durant could be rejoining the Brooklyn Nets later this week when they are back in New York, Steve Nash says Kyrie Irving will need between a week and two weeks to ramp up before making his season debut.

Durant and Irving stay in health and safety protocols and are not with the team in Los Angeles, where the Nets play the Clippers on Monday night. But the team returns to New York after the match, and the Nets could have Durant and center LaMarcus Aldridge out of protocols and back with the team when they play Philadelphia on Thursday.

“I think there’s a good chance Kevin will be,” Nash stated after the team’s shootaround about whether Durant will be back with the team when it gets back home. “With Kyrie, I’m not so sure, but it’s coming. He’s already been [in protocols since Dec. 18]. … He’s got to be getting close.”

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Aldridge entered health and safety protocols on Dec. 14 along with five other Nets. The other five — James Harden, James Johnson, Bruce Brown, DeAndre’ Bembry and Jevon Carter — were all cleared and played in the Nets’ victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas.

Durant and Irving went into protocols on Dec. 18. The day before, the Nets announced Irving would be returning to the team to play on a part-time basis. Because of New York City’s vaccine mandate, Irving is not allowed to play in home games at Barclays Center or at Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks.

Since the point guard has not practiced on a regular basis with the team since early October in training camp, Nash says it will take Irving time to ramp up. The Nets have yet to see Irving on a court since deciding to bring him back into the fold because he went into health and safety protocols.

“It’s hard to say, but I would say probably somewhere between a week and two weeks,” Nash said of the ramp-up. “He’s obviously been isolating so that kind of puts another layer to the ramp-up. It’s not like he’s been working out so probably I’d imagine it’s going to be closer to two weeks once he comes out of protocols. We’ll just have to see how it goes, though, because we have to evaluate him from a physical and performance standpoint and a basketball standpoint as well.”

After concluding this two-game trip in Los Angeles, the Nets only have two road games in their following nine games after Monday’s game at the Clippers. They play at Indiana on Jan. 5 and then at Chicago on Jan. 12.

If Irving doesn’t play in those games, the Nets could have him at Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 17 for the start of a four-game road swing.

Harden stated on Saturday that having Irving back, even on a part-time basis, “will be huge for us.”

“Hopefully we can get him back full-time,” center Nic Claxton said. “But it’s definitely gonna be scary hours [with Irving back]. I think he’s gonna break the game for us, and make things easier for everybody on the court. And I’m just, I’m ready to get my brother back.”

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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash concerned with Kevin Durant’s minutes, ‘not safe or sustainable’

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash stated he’s concerned about the amount of minutes superstar forward Kevin Durant is playing this season, and that the team is going to have to monitor him closely as it navigates the next several matches with a short-handed roster ravaged by COVID-19.

“It’s a really important topic,” Nash said before Brooklyn beat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-105 at Barclays Center Thursday night for another short-handed victory.

“I don’t know we can continue to lean on him the way we have. It doesn’t feel right.

“I know he’s enjoying it. I know he’s enjoying playing at the rate he’s playing at and trying to bring his teammates along with him and all the responsibility that he’s accepted and crushed, basically. It’s just been incredible. But, at the same time, it’s not safe or sustainable to lean on him like that. There’s gonna be a lot of consideration and we’ll have to figure out ways to give him breaks.”

Durant is averaging 36.9 minutes per game this season — fourth-most in the NBA, behind Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, his teammate OG Anunoby and Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.

That is the most minutes per game Durant has averaged in eight years, since he averaged 38.5 minutes per night during the 2013-14 season, when he scored 32 points per game and claimed his lone Most Valuable Player award.

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The 33-year-old played a season-high 48 minutes in Tuesday night’s overtime victory versus the Raptors here at Barclays Center, finishing with a 34-point triple-double in a 131-129 Brooklyn win — the fifth time in 26 games this season that he’s eclipsed the 40-minute mark. He did so after being listed as questionable to play in Tuesday’s game earlier in the day with right ankle soreness. He followed that up by playing 39 minutes in Thursday night’s game, scoring 34 points.

“I just try to do what’s required, man,” said Durant, when asked about his minutes load after Tuesday’s win. “I mean, I want to be out there. I want to play. I want to win. So, it starts there.

“Whatever I got to do to accomplish those three things, I’m going to do.”

For the Nets, though, the challenge is not just winning today — it’s winning several months from now, when Brooklyn hopes to be making a deep playoff run as it challenges for its first NBA championship.

That will require getting Durant through the season healthy in the wake of missing the entire 2019-20 season due to an Achilles tear suffered in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and playing just 35 regular-season games last season because of recurring hamstring issues.

Durant has only missed two games so far this season.

But with Brooklyn down seven players due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols for a minimum of another week — plus remaining without Joe Harris, who is recovering from ankle surgery, and Kyrie Irving, who has not played yet this season after failing to fulfill New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements, Nash said he needs to balance keeping the Nets afloat during the period they are short-handed without putting too much strain on Durant’s body.

While Nash said veteran guard Langston Galloway, whom the Nets signed with a hardship waiver Wednesday, was available for Thursday’s game — giving Brooklyn nine available players — Nash admitted that having just enough players available to keep playing is a double-edged sword.

“The question is we’re above the threshold, so to speak, which is positive,” Nash said, referring to the NBA’s minimum requirement of having eight healthy players available to play in a game. “At the same time, we’re barely above the threshold. So what toll does that take on our players?

“Is it better to be over the threshold and to not be playing until you have a healthy roster or is it better to have enough to play but to be short-handed and the burden and the toll that takes on these guys and knowing that you’re going to have guys coming back who haven’t been able to practice or play basketball? So it is definitely tricky to navigate.”

As for Brooklyn’s opponent Thursday, 76ers coach Doc Rivers stated Georges Niang — who tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday — said no one else had tested positive yet. But after going through their own outbreak earlier this season, one that cost them both superstar center Joel Embiid and second-leading scorer Tobias Harris, Rivers said the team held a call Wednesday to try to tighten up their own protocols amid COVID-19 spikes across the country — let alone in professional sports.

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Rockets beat shorthanded Nets 114-104 for 7th straight win

Eric Gordon scored 21 points before being ejected in the fourth quarter and Garrison Mathews added 19 as the Houston Rockets extended their winning streak to seven games with a 114-104 triumph over the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Before the streak, the Rockets dropped their previous 15 matches. It’s the first time Houston has won seven consecutive since winning eight in a row in November 2019.

“The adversity that we went through prior to this point has made it even sweeter,” coach Stephen Silas said. “We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

James Harden had 25 points for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets on a night when NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge both sat out for rest. It was Harden’s second visit to Houston since he was traded in January during his ninth season with the Rockets.

The Rockets led by 17 to start the fourth quarter and the Nets cut the deficit to four before Houston pulled away.

Mathews, who had 12 points in the fourth, scored four in a 5-0 run that extended Houston’s lead to 109-97. Patty Mills made one of two free throws for the Nets before a three-point play by D.J. Augustin made it 112-98 with about two minutes to go.

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“When you beat a team like that it means something,” Mathews said. “This streak’s been a huge boost to our confidence. It’s been a huge boost to our morale.”

The loss snapped a six-game road winning streak for the Nets, whose nine road victories are tied with the Suns for most in the NBA.

The Nets shot just 8 of 33 from 3-point range, with Harden going 3 of 12 and finishing 4 of 16 overall. He was 14 for 16 from the line.

“I got the shots I wanted, for sure,” he said. “I just didn’t make them.”

Harden received a fair number of boos when he was introduced and each time he had the ball early. But he got a warm ovation after a highlight video of his time in Houston was played during a timeout in the first quarter.

He formed his hands into the shape of a heart as he held them over his head and then moved them to his chest and smiled as the crowd cheered.

Harden stated playing in Houston will always be meaningful to him.

“Very special,” he said. “I spent some of my most amazing years here on the court and off the court.”

Cam Thomas had 18 points for Brooklyn, and Mills added 12.

A 10-0 spurt by the Nets got them within four with about 7½ minutes left. Harden capped that run when he made a 3-pointer as he crashed to the court after being fouled by Mathews and made the free throw for a four-point play.

Gordon was ejected soon after that when he received his second technical foul of the game for yelling at the officials about not getting a foul call.

Harden’s free throw after Gordon’s technical cut the lead to four, but a 6-1 spurt by the Rockets, highlighted by a 3 from Mathews, made it 104-95 with 4½ minutes left.

Houston led by as many as 20 and took control of the game with a 37-point second quarter. The Rockets ended the third quarter on a 6-2 run, punctuated by a one-handed dunk by Kenyon Martin Jr. to make it 90-73 entering the fourth.

Houston rookie Josh Christopher stole the ball from Jevon Carter and dished to Martin on the other end, and he sailed over Carter for the slam.

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Adebayo has 24, Heat pull away to beat Nets 106-93

Bam Adebayo had 24 points and nine rebounds to lead the Miami Heat to a 106-93 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Jimmy Butler added 17 points for Miami (3-1). P.J. Tucker finished with 15, and Tyler Herro and Dewayne Dedmon each contributed 14.

A preseason favorite to win the NBA championship, Brooklyn has alternated losses and wins through the first five matches of the season and dropped to 2-3. 

Kevin Durant finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds. “I like how we’re playing defense the last couple games,” Durant said.

“I like where our defense is trending. … I feel like we’re generating good shots. We’re just (not) knocking them down. If we continue to generate good shots we’ll put ourselves in good position.”

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Joe Harris contributed 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting, including 5 for 11 from 3-point range. With his third 3-pointer of the game, Harris passed Jason Kidd as the franchise’s career leader in made 3-pointers.

James Harden had 14 points and Bruce Brown chipped in with 12.

The first of four regular-season matchups between the Eastern Conference rivals was a contrast in styles, the flashy, up-tempo, high-scoring Nets against a physical Heat squad.

Despite forcing the Nets to play a possession-by-possession game for much of the first half, the Heat trailed 51-49 at the half.

Miami had outscored Brooklyn in the paint (30-20), had more second-chance points (15-2), and had a decided edge in rebounds (35-25).

“We have a bunch of like-minded guys,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “(That’s) the way those guys are hard-wired.”

What the Heat did not have, though, was the tandem of Durant and Harden, who combined for 25 of Brooklyn’s 51 points in the half. Durant also grabbed eight rebounds while Harden added three boards and three assists.

Miami stayed with its approach and it paid dividends in the third quarter, as the Heat outscored the Nets 32-23 and took an 81-74 lead into the fourth. The Heat extended their lead to 88-77 before Brooklyn used a 7-2 spurt to cut the deficit to 90-84.

Following a timeout, Durant stared down Butler as he drilled a 3 to bring Brooklyn with three. That was as close as the Nets would come, as Miami pulled away, with Adebayo throwing down two thunderous dunks.

For the game, Miami outscored Brooklyn 48-34 in the paint, had 27 more second-chance points (31-4), and outrebounded the Nets 62-42.

“Overall a consistent theme was second-chance opportunities,” Harris said. “When you look up and the shot margin was as big as it was, it’s really hard to beat good teams. That was a problem a lot of last year and it’s been a problem a lot of this year so far.”

The Heat did not make any players available to reporters after the match.

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Kevin Durant signs 4-year, $198M extension with Brooklyn Nets, manager says

Kevin Durant has signed a multiyear extension with the Brooklyn Nets, the team announced Sunday morning.

The extension is for four years and worth the $198 million maximum, Durant’s longtime business manager and co-founder of Thirty Five Ventures and Boardroom, Rich Kleiman, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday.

Durant declined his 2022-23 player option and extended off his $42 million salary for the 2021-22 season. Durant, who led Team USA to its fourth consecutive Olympics gold with a win versus France on Saturday, was spectacular in his return to the court this season.

He missed his first season in Brooklyn while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals in Toronto while playing for the Golden State Warriors.

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He wound up playing only 35 regular-season games for Brooklyn last season due to a combination of COVID-19 absences and a hamstring injury, but Durant averaged 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists and made his 11th All-Star appearance.

Durant then averaged 34.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 12 playoff games for the Nets, including arguably the greatest performance of his legendary career — a 49-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist triple-double while playing all 48 minutes of a 114-108 triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He then played all 53 minutes of Brooklyn’s overtime loss in Game 7, scoring another 48 points — which included a game-tying shot in the final second of regulation to force the extra session.

“Kevin is a transcendent talent who continues to drive and push this franchise and the game of basketball globally,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement Sunday. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with him for years to come.”

The Nets are currently projected to spend $296 million next season in payroll and luxury taxes, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

That is the second-biggest total in NBA history (trailing only next season’s Warriors), as the Nets try to win the franchise’s first NBA championship around Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

Irving joined Durant in Brooklyn as free agents two years ago, and the Nets executed a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets to land Harden in January.

Irving and Harden will also be eligible to sign contract extensions with Brooklyn this offseason.

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Team USA falls to France at Tokyo Games for first Olympic men’s basketball loss since 2004

Team USA’s invincibility in men’s basketball is long gone, and the journey to a fourth successive gold medal is already fraught with adversity.

France gut-punched the Americans with a brilliant finish for an 83-76 triumph to open the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. It snapped a 25-game Olympic winning streak dating back to 2004 for Team USA.

The final blow came when Evan Fournier drilled a 3-pointer with a minute to play to give the French the lead for good, completing their comeback after the U.S. had an eight-point lead with four minutes to play. It was the biggest of his 28 points in one of the finest games he has played in his career.

It was followed by an amazing possession in which the Americans managed to get five shots off and missed them all. The final three were wide-open 3-point attempts by Zach LaVine, Kevin Durant and Jrue Holiday.

“I got to lead the team because I know these guys,” Fournier said. “It’s a hell of a win. Our country is going to be extremely proud. But it’s just one game, to be honest.”

If there was a moment in this match that best encapsulated the situation between these two teams, it came at the end, when the French calmly shook the Americans’ hands and left the floor with the same business-as-usual demeanor Fournier displayed. Two years ago at the World Cup in China, France celebrated wildly after defeating a much-less-talented Team USA.

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“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said before launching into what has become his go-to statement after losses.

“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word surprised. That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team.”

The French won the bronze at that World Cup, but their talent does not compare to that of the Americans.

And it does not explain how a U.S. team built for scoring and shooting went an unexplainable four and a half minutes without a basket down the stretch.

Fatigue was a factor. Three players didn’t get to the team hotel until 1 a.m. on gameday, an unusual set of circumstances. But one of them, Jrue Holiday, was masterful in the fourth quarter as he scored 12 of his 18 points and contributed several other energy plays to help the U.S. build a lead.

The Americans then had a host of stars to lean on such as Durant, Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard. But they failed as the French ran an execution clinic.

Popovich seemed annoyed by media questions about the upset, as has been his custom. He has overseen losses in five of the past eight games he has coached for the national team dating back to 2019. There were some who admitted the loss was a disappointment, however.

“I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it’s not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start,” stated Lillard, who shot just 3-of-10 and had two critical turnovers late in the game.

Popovich said he’d been thinking about this rematch for two years and daily since the game was drawn in February. But he never figured out how to slow down Fournier as he repeatedly got free for open looks on the perimeter. Even Holiday, who was brilliant in the NBA Finals, helping the Bucks clinch the title Tuesday, couldn’t stem the tide.

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