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Report: Team USA Players 'Grumbling' About Gregg Popovich's Spurs Offense at Olympics

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 26, 2021

SAITAMA, JAPAN - JULY 25: Zachary Lavine #5, Jrue Holiday #12, Bam Adebayo #13, Kevin Durant #7, Damian Lillard #6 and Head Coach Gregg Popovich of Team United States of America look on in disbelief during their game against France in Men's Preliminary Round Group B action on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Super Arena on July 25, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Team USA basketball players have reportedly been "grumbling" about running head coach Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs offense at the Tokyo Olympics.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic reported the star-studded roster is "frustrated" and believes there are "better ideas" to get the offense going, while Popovich is "horrified" by Team USA's recent struggles, including a loss to France in its Olympic opener Sunday.

The U.S. getting upset by a France squad featuring Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier didn't come as a surprise to those who tracked its pre-Tokyo exhibition games.

Popovich's group suffered losses to Nigeria and Australia while going 2-2 during its warm-up schedule, and the squad never looked ready to steamroll the competition at the Olympics like prior versions of Team USA.

The offense continued to look out of sorts against France. The Americans shot just 36 percent from the field (25-of-69), including 31 percent on threes (10-of-32), and nobody emerged as the go-to player in crunch time despite the roster being filled with NBA All-Stars.

"I think that's a little bit of hubris if you think the Americans are supposed to just roll out the ball and win," Popovich told reporters. "I mean, we've got to work for it just like everybody else."

The Spurs' offense is predicated on ball movement, and when it works—as it so often did during the era of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili—it can be borderline unstoppable. That's why Popovich is the owner of five NBA championships and 3 NBA Coach of the Year Awards.

However, trying to implement such a system in a short period of time, with most of the players coming from offenses wherein they are a top scoring options, is a tricky task.

The question may be whether it's too late to try something else or if Team USA will be all-in on the Spurs-style attack with their chances of winning the gold medal—often a fait accompli in Olympics past—fading with each lackluster performance.

The games against Iran on Wednesday and the Czech Republic on Saturday should give the U.S. a chance to experiment with different offensive sets if the coaching staff wants to. Team USA can't afford another upset if it wants to guarantee a quarterfinal berth, though.

It's possible the offense finally clicks during the final two games of pool play and Team USA proceeds to waltz to another gold medal. If that happens, all of the struggles leading up to this point of frustration within the squad will be forgotten.

That's far from a sure thing, however, and the pressure is clearly beginning to mount within the U.S. locker room.

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