U.S. basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has been telling anyone who will listen that international basketball come a long way.
“International basketball is not followed as much in our country,” he said 30 earlier this week. “Fans don’t have the appreciation.”
If North American fans tuned in on Sunday to watch the U.S. play France in the first round of the Olympic tournament, they got a little appreciation for what he’s talking about. But not much.
The U.S. team beat France, 98-71, coming back after a slow start that saw the Americans lead the French by just one point after the first quarter.
The French players, led by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, clearly weren’t intimidated by their famous American rivals, as demonstrated when France’s Boris Diaw, who also plays for the Spurs, flattened Deron Williams of the U.S. early in the game. Aside from Parker and Diaw, four other French players are on NBA rosters including Ronnie Turiaf of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The U.S. led 22-21 after the first, thanks largely to shooting a miserable 29 per cent from the field.
But it was only a matter of time before the Americans got rolling. That happened from the start of the second quarter. The U.S. took over play, scoring 30 points in the quarter and demonstrating impressive passing - particularly between Williams and Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. France couldn’t keep up and started making mistakes, committing 11 turnovers in the first half and making just one of 11 attempts from the three-point line.
The second half didn’t go any better for France while the Americans began to find their rhythm. By the fourth, the Americans were in control enough for Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to see almost no action. The game was left to the likes of James Harden, Andre Iguodala and even Anthony Davis, the former University of Kentucky star and NBA top draft pick this spring.
The Americans were led on offence by Durant, who scored 22 points and looked completely at ease.
If Krzyzewski is looking to convince people that global basketball has improved, one quarter of this game did that. Not much more.