Team USA will learn a lot about itself during Sunday's Olympic opener against France.
The U.S. men had a choppy run during exhibition play, losing consecutive games to Nigeria and Australia. The team's perpetual search for chemistry and cohesion is especially difficult this time around, as injuries and COVID-19 issues have affected the roster, which will finally add the fresh faces of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker, who were previously tied up with the NBA Finals.
"That's one of the interesting things about international basketball is our team changes every year and the teams we play against stay the same, and that's the big challenge," assistant coach Steve Kerr told reporters.
Speaking of big challenges, Team USA opens with a massive one. France, which features Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier and Frank Ntilikina, knocked off the United States when these teams last tussled at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
"We've been preparing for France for two years," head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. "I think about it every day."
Can Team USA reverse some of its recent misfortune and gain momentum in its quest for a fourth straight gold medal? Or will France slay Goliath again?
After laying out the scheduling particulars, let's take a deeper dive into the matchup to find out.
Olympic Men's Basketball
Who: United States vs. France
When: Sunday, July 25 at 8 a.m. ET
Where: Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com and Peacock
Preview and Prediction
France can make life difficult for the Americans on both ends of the court.
On offense, Batum and Fournier can keep things humming as capable shot-creators and shot-makers. They may not always be the most consistent scorers, but either one can heat up in a hurry and pile three-point bombs on top of one another.
And they have an elite interior anchor on defense in Gobert, who just captured his third Defensive Player of the Year award this season. They also have the pesky Ntilikina on the perimeter. Either one can be a wet blanket to throw at whichever American scorer catches fire.
This team has talent—just not nearly as much of it as Team USA.
Granted, as per usual, it's a new batch. Just two players are back from the 2016 gold medalists—Kevin Durant and Draymond Green—and even the coaching staff is new, with Popovich replacing Mike Krzyzewski.
But the U.S. talent pool is so rich and deep that it's basically always rostering a bunch of A-listers.
In addition to Durant, Green, Booker, Middleton and Holiday, Team USA features Damian Lillard, Zach LaVine, Bam Adebayo and Jayson Tatum, among others. And that coaching change just meant moving from one legendary skipper to another.
That doesn't mean Team USA can just show up and win, though. The lack of chemistry is a challenge, and if they aren't careful, it's an obstacle that could do them in.
But talent wins out more often than not, and the U.S. has more of it than France by a wide margin. The score may not reflect that throughout the contest, but Team USA should pull away for a relatively comfortable win.
Prediction: Team USA 102, France 90