Team's USA's assembled group of stars didn't suddenly get worse at basketball.
The U.S. men's national basketball team surprised many last week by losing back-to-back exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia as they prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
One explanation for their struggles: The players, all of whom are on NBA rosters, have had to adjust to the different rules and style of international play.
Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum outlined some of the key adjustments to The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn.
"It’s a lot of differences," Tatum said. "Players can’t call timeouts. You can smack the ball off the rim. The ball is different. You can sit in the paint all day. There's less possessions because there’s less minutes in a game.
"There’s things in the heat of the game that you have to remind yourself. We’ve all just got to help each other and talk."
Olympic games are played under FIBA rules, which feature 10-minute quarters instead of the NBA's 12-minute quarters and a five-foul limit instead of the NBA's six. There are also no three-second violations, and players are allowed to touch the ball after it hits the rim, even if it's within the imaginary cylinder that extends above the hoop.
Even the court dimensions are different: The 3-point line in FIBA is at 20 feet, 6 inches instead of the NBA's 23 feet, 9 inches.
The Americans won't find any sympathy from their Olympic opponents, whose NBA players have had to make a similar adjustment. But the U.S. is the only Olympic squad featuring all NBA players, which could explain their somewhat disjointed play early on.
Tatum has plenty of personal motivation to help Team USA turn things around, though. He missed the knockout stages of the 2019 FIBA World Cup due to a knee injury as the U.S. finished a disappointing seventh.
"Not being able to play [in 2019] and watching it was tough," Tatum told Washburn. "Watching your teammates play out there and not being able to help. Kind of the reason I really wanted to play this time is to try to get that revenge."
Team USA plays one more exhibition game Sunday against Spain at 9 p.m. ET before traveling to Tokyo for the Olympics, which begin July 23.