Gregg Popovich Says Criticizing Team USA's FIBA Performance 'Immature, Arrogant'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2019

BEIJING, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 14: Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the USA reacts during the class game 7-8 march between the USA and Poland of 2019 FIBA World Cup at the Cadillac Arena on September 14, 2019 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)
Fred Lee/Getty Images

Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich fired back at critics of the team's performance in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup after the United States' 87-74 victory over Poland in the seventh-place game Saturday.

Although it marked the U.S.' worst result in an Olympic or World Cup tournament, Popovich wasn't interested in critiques of the players who opted to take on the international schedule this summer following a mass exodus of high-end talent from the roster, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst.

"Some people want to play the blame game. There's no blame to be placed anywhere," he said. "They want to play the shame game, like we should be ashamed because we didn't win a gold medal? That's a ridiculous attitude. It's immature, it's arrogant, and it shows that whoever thinks that doesn't respect all the other teams in the world and doesn't respect that these guys did the best they could."

The United States made it through the first two rounds of group play undefeated, with victories over the Czech Republic, Turkey, Japan, Greece and Brazil.

Popovich's group was eliminated in the quarterfinals—the first knockout round—by France, however, and then suffered a second straight loss to Serbia in the consolation round.

"Their effort was fantastic. They allowed us to coach them," the San Antonio Spurs head coach said after beating Poland. "You give people credit for what they did, and that's it. But it's not a blame and shame game. That's ridiculous."

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A roster that already lacked the top-to-bottom star power generally associated with Team USA took another hit after losing Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum to an ankle injury in its second game.

For a country that could feature a starting lineup somewhere along the lines of Steph Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the rotation the U.S. featured throughout the World Cup was a significant step down in both talent and career accolades.

While some players never committed to international play during the current NBA offseason, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo expressed displeasure Thursday with the players who said they would play before pulling out later in the process, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.

"I can only say, you can't help but notice and remember who you thought you were going to war with and who didn't show up," Colangelo said. "I'm a firm believer that you deal with the cards you're dealt. All we could have done, and we did it, is get the commitments from a lot of players.

"So with that kind of a hand, you feel reasonably confident that you're going to be able to put a very good representative team on the court. No one would have anticipated the pull-outs that we had."

Popovich wasn't prepared to discuss his roster-building plans for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in the aftermath of Saturday's win, per Windhorst.

"This isn't really the time to even think about that," he said. "It's 10 months away."

The World Cup showed that anything less than a full-strength U.S. squad would be far from a lock to capture Olympic gold next summer.