FIBA World Cup

Team USA loss shouldn't define Team Shamrock's FIBA World Cup experience

Team USA loss shouldn't define Team Shamrock's FIBA World Cup experience

The four members of the Celtics who signed up for Team USA duty this summer knew the potential pitfalls and the chief peril came to fruition Wednesday when the Americans got upset by France in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup in China.

For the first time in 13 years, Team USA lost a game during international competition. Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart will be linked to a team that disappointingly saw a 58-game winning streak snapped — at least for a few summers while Team USA attempts to rebuild its reputation as the dominant force in international hoops.

But to suggest that Team USA’s loss in any way takes away from what these players experienced this summer is shortsighted. Four members of the Celtics got a jump start on chemistry-building, they got a rare chance to learn under the tutelage of championship coaches like Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, and they got a hoops experience that's positives will so greatly outweigh the negatives of a non-medal finish.

When Paul Pierce’s name is invoked in these parts, is the first recollection the disastrous 2002 world championships experience in which Team USA finished a head-slapping sixth on home soil? That year, the Americans saw another 58-game winning streak snapped against Argentina.

There was palpable and understandable disappointment among Celtics players after Team USA lost Wednesday. When Jaylen Brown was asked by reporters what the mood in the Americans’ locker room was like, he responded, "I don’t even know how to answer that. Everybody knows what we wanted to do, and we didn’t do it. I guess you can imagine how we feel, right?”

We can. But once the disappointment wears off, and the FIBA championships are sooner forgotten with the start of the NBA season, the experiences that Team Shamrock endured will benefit them far more than any medal might have.

Where else this summer would the 6-foot-7 Brown be tasked with not only playing a good majority of his minutes at the unfamiliar power forward position, but also be tasked, in critical game situations, with helping to defend 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert? When the Americans desperately needed to slow Gobert, it was Brown and Smart who got the call from Popovich as the best non-big options to joust with the Jazz center.

Brown put together another solid outing Wednesday, maximizing his opportunity ever since Tatum injured his ankle against Turkey. Smart practically willed the USA back from a double-digit deficit early in the second half with his defensive tenacity.

Yes, Walker had his biggest dud of the tournament. He struggled early against France’s ball pressure and his shot defied him throughout the game. It was the worst possible timing for Walker to go cold in a tournament where he had otherwise shined. Team USA will wonder if things might have been a bit different if Tatum had been healthy enough to suit up.

Team USA fell short of impossibly high expectations, particularly considering how much the talent gap has narrowed in international hoops. When American superstars bailed on this year’s FIBA tournament, it put those that elected to suit up in a tough spot, all while tasked with building chemistry on the fly. Credit Popovich and Co. for not using it as the go-to excuse for why Team USA bowed so early.

The experiences of the past two months will soon benefit Team Shamrock. Maybe it happens when Tatum is at the free-throw line in the closing seconds of an opening-night tilt in Philadelphia and he can step up more confidently knowing the clutch freebies he made against Turkey to force overtime. Maybe it happens a week later if Smart is deployed to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo when the Bucks visit TD Garden on Oct. 30, and Smart can reflect back on his efforts in Team USA’s win over Greece.

Maybe it happens when Brad Stevens deploys Brown at the 4 in small-ball lineups, cocksure in the assignment because of what Brown showed in this tournament. Or maybe it happens whenever Walker looks across the court and sees the like of Gobert or Evan Fournier, and the disappointment of his quarterfinal shooting woes inspire him in an NBA rematch.

If nothing else, Boston’s quartet of Team USA participants should be ready to hit the ground running when camp opens on Oct. 1. They sacrificed their summer with hopes of FIBA gold, but there are much bigger goals for all four of those players in a more familiar work environment.

Wednesday’s loss shouldn’t define Team Shamrock. What happens in the next six months will be a much better gauge of their summer adventures.

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Team USA handed shocking loss to France in FIBA World Cup, 89-79

Team USA handed shocking loss to France in FIBA World Cup, 89-79

It had to end sooner or later for Team USA. 

After 58 consecutive wins with NBA players in international competition, a diluted Team USA had an earlier-than-expected elimination from the FIBA World Cup following an 89-79 loss to France in the quarterfinals in China. 

A strong surge by Team USA was followed by an even stronger close-out by the French, who will advance to the semifinals and play Argentina. 

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert led the way for the French with 21 points and 16 rebounds, while Evan Fournier tallied 22. The best Team USA can finish now is fifth in the consolation portion of the bracket.

For Team USA, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 29 points. The Celtics' Kemba Walker struggled all game, finishing with just 10 points on 2-for-9 shooting. His C's teammates Marcus Smart (11 points) and Jaylen Brown (nine points) each played 22 minutes while Boston's Jayson Tatum remained out with an ankle injury.

Late missed free throws by Walker (6-for-8) from the line and Smart (4-for-8) hurt the Americans' comeback chances.

Vincent Poirier of France, signed by the Celtics this offseason, did not play. 

As much as the sooner-than-expected loss will be attributed to the Team USA players on the floor, it will be remembered more for those who decided to not participate. 

Team USA has still done enough to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but the World Cup proved once again that the Americans aren't quite as deep talent-wise as some might believe. 

Of the 12 players on the Team USA roster, they combined for just four All-Star appearances with two of those four coming this past season from Walker and Milwaukee Bucks guard Kris Middleton. 

By no means will this loss have any impact of significance on Team USA’s chances at a gold medal in 2020. 

Most, if not all, the players on this team will be replaced by the NBA’s top-tier talent who will be even more motivated now to come away with the gold. 

Still, the loss hurts because on some levels it serves as yet another reminder of how much the game has become more global not only in terms of interest but also the quality of play. 

And when you throw in the chemistry dynamic that was an advantage for the opponents that Team USA played, it shouldn’t come as a total shock that a diluted US squad didn’t just run over teams like we’re accustomed to seeing.

The Celtics quartet of Walker, Brown, Smart and Tatum all had moments of greatness - Walker more than the others - throughout the World Cup. 

But they all had their stretches of not-so-great play which, ultimately, was the one common denominator with all of the players on the team. 

However, Celtics fans will take delight in having four players on the team who had a chance to play with one another and start making inroads towards establishing better team chemistry than we saw last season. 

There’s no question the ending to all this was a disappointment, but no group will benefit from this experience more than the Celtics. 

Walker is a three-time All-Star and will be the head of the Celtics’ attack this season. Him having time to play with Brown, Tatum and Smart - all of whom will play major roles this season - gives Boston a much-needed lift heading into the season. 

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Jayson Tatum (ankle) ruled out for Team USA vs France at FIBA World Cup

Jayson Tatum (ankle) ruled out for Team USA vs France at FIBA World Cup

Jayson Tatum, who is working on coming back from an ankle sprain, will reportedly went through shootaround for Team USA and is a game-time decision for their FIBA World Cup quarterfinal against France. 

Tatum suffered a left ankle sprain late in an overtime win over Turkey last week. There was uncertainty on whether he'd play again in the FIBA World Cup given the upcoming NBA season, but it appears Tatum is healthy enough to give it a go. 

This is good news for the Celtics, who will rely heavily on Tatum this season after the departures of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. 

Team USA enters the knockout stage of the World Cup at 7 a.m. EST on Wednesday against a French team that features All-Star center Rudy Gobert and new Celtics center Vincent Poirier. The US has played well as of late thanks to the efforts of Kemba Walker and Jalyen Brown, but now is the time where's it's win or go home. 

UPDATE (7 a.m. ET): Tatum officially has been ruled out, per The New York Times' Marc Stein.

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