Team USA is already making headlines before the start of this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games. Not for their typical dominance, but for their shocking exhibition game loss to Nigeria on Saturday.
While the talent on the Team USA roster is certainly there, Tatum attributed the loss to a lack of chemistry.
“I don’t know the exact answer,” he said when asked about the team’s ability to gel. “It’s only been four days and we’re making strides. None of us have ever played with each other. So, we’re just trying to figure it out. We know we don’t have three or four weeks or whatever it may be.”
Tatum finished the loss with 15 points and seven rebounds, a far cry from his 30.6 points-per-game average in this year’s NBA postseason. Team headliners Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal also struggled to get things going, shooting 30.8% and 14.3% from the field respectively.
From the looks of things, this could’ve been a classic case of underestimating your opponent. With a roster stacked full of NBA All Stars, Team USA likely entered this matchup with an overly-confident mindset.
Noting the physicality and effort from the Nigerian squad, Tatum echoed the sentiment of an old adage, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
“It just kind of goes to show that, you know, we have to play better,” Tatum said. “And, on any given night, the team that plays harder and is more physical—anybody can win. It’s something we can learn from.”
This could be exactly the wake up call Team USA needed before they embark on their upcoming Olympic run. With just a couple more exhibition games before the start of this year’s games, Tatum and the rest of his squad will have to solve these chemistry issues quickly if they want to earn a fourth straight Olympic gold for the U.S.
Team USA will take on Australia in another exhibition matchup at 8 p.m. ET today.