There were back cuts. There was poor transition defense. There were American defenders giving up position to gamble for a steal and being exposed.
There were a few reasons Team USA struggled with Lithuania on Saturday — ice cold shooting from three is at the top of the list — but for a team that prides itself on defense, Team USA didn’t play it well.
USA starting center Tyson Chandler owned up to that speaking with PBT from the Gillette Lounge in Procter & Gamble Family Home in London. The guy that is out there to help organize and backstop the USA’s defense said that the previous two games caught up to them against Lithuania.
“We had a down night,” Chandler said in an exclusive interview with ProBasketballTalk. “We got beat off the dribble way too much, and our execution was poor defensively, and our communication was poor. So it was one of those nights and we struggled offensively but we got to learn with a victory….
“We want to be able go for steals and do that while still being solid. You don’t want to gamble without reason… We played a couple of games where we were able to jump all over the passing lanes and a little bit of bad habits creep in. And then you play a game like Lithuania and those bad habits are exposed. But the great thing is they are exposed and we came away with a win. It was a learning thing for us. Now we go out and make the adjustments”
Chandler has not been able to backstop the American defense as much as hoped these Olympics (12 minutes per game) because Coach J has gone small a lot and because of foul trouble at times. Foul trouble in part because FIBA officiating is… inconsistent. That’s a word we can use on a family blog. Inconsistent.
“It’s an adjustment, you adjust every game. You learn game by game, you just have to adjust…” Chandler said diplomatically of the officiating. “An athletes job is to try to adjust to the way the game is being called. It’s very important that while we are on the floor we keep our composure and that we represent our country in the correct fashion. Because it’s not just the image we put off for ourselves, it’s about representing our country.”
Chandler spoke a lot about representing his country and how much that mattered to him. Composure on the court and acting like grown men is certainly part of that. But the other part is winning.
Lithuania was just the first of some real tests for the USA coming up, starting with Argentina on Monday.
“We understand we are into the thick of things now, it really begins now,” Chandler said. “Argentina is going to be a tough game and after that it’s the medal round, so things are going to pick up and get more intense. This is what we have all been waiting for.”
Is there a pressure on the team to win gold? Heck yes. Anything short will be viewed as a failure. But Chandler tries not to look at it that way.
“You don’t feel the pressure to go out and win a gold or something like that, you feel the pressure to go out and represent your country in the correct fashion… We also know we have the ability to inspire the next generation. We’ve seen how the game of basketball has evolved since the 1992 Olympics when the dream team was assembled… a lot of the kids who were inspired by that are in our league today.”
Chandler also talked about wanting to inspire his young children. He was hanging out in the Procter & Gamble Family Home, on the day they were celebrating Olympic dads (which you can like on Facebook).
“We’re enjoying the festivities, and I’m looking forward to 10 years from now being able to break back out the footage and sharing with them what all of this meant,” Chandler said.
Especially if he can also break out a gold medal to show them.