On Sunday afternoon, the United States men's basketball team defeated Serbia to take home the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The end result was expected, but the road for Team USA wasn't all that smooth, as they had a number of unexpectedly close games in the group stage along the way. Throughout the two-week tournament, plenty of criticism was thrown at the squad, mostly due to the fact that they did not look as dominant as past American Olympic teams.
Despite the fact that they didn't lose a game, skeptics were tough on the squad and many pondered if this was the worst collective that represented the red, white, and blue in the post-Dream Team era. In the elimination stage they were as strong as advertised, but overall it was clear that they weren't as dominant in 2016 as past Olympics, which could have been due to a lack of chemistry or the fact that a number of top players (LeBron James, Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, etc.) decided to stay home this summer.
Hall of Famer David Robinson, who won gold in 1992 and 1996, spoke to Complex during an event at the NBA Store in New York before the game and shared his thoughts on the team. Robinson, Grant Hill, Lenny Wilkens, and Teresa Edwards were on hand at the store for a special viewing of the gold medal game where they interacted with fans and comment on the action.
"You can criticize whatever you want, but I think they're doing a good job given their short time together," Robinson said. "You give a team a month—three weeks—to get together and you're going to make mistakes, you're just not going to be as sharp. So yeah, they haven't been as sharp as they could [be], but they're certainly getting the job done, and with the increase in talent worldwide there are no guarantees."
if you're able to put together a team like this, you're generally going to have a short window because you can't pay all those guys to keep them together.
Robinson noted that the talent gap between the US and the rest of the world has gotten considerably smaller over the years, which naturally makes for better competition overall, but a tougher road for Team USA. "It's not like it used to be, where we just had an overwhelming talent advantage. That advantage has slipped somewhat," he said. "So it's fair, you can criticize all you want, but if they get the job done there's nothing anyone can say." Grant Hill, who won gold on the 1996 team, echoed many of the same sentiments concerning Team USA's lack of continuity and the growth of talent throughout the rest of the world. "A lot of these international teams have been playing together for a long time and having brought tremendous pride to that level for five, 10, 15, sometimes 20 years together is hard to beat," he said.
Aside from discussing the Olympics, Robinson also touched on the San Antonio Spurs' summer and the retirement of his good friend, Tim Duncan. "End of an era and obviously, he's like a little brother to me so I just enjoyed watching him, growing up with him," Robinson said. "What's great is what Coach Popovich and R.C. Buford and the whole family have done a great job in continuing to build the franchise and still be very, very competitive. I think we'll have a chance to win the championship this year."
Of course, with the Golden State Warriors signing Kevin Durant in July, the team in Oakland will be heavy favorites to come out of the West, but that's not stopping "The Admiral" from believing in the team that he won two titles with. "It takes time, you look at what happened with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. It took them a year or two to get their legs underneath them and figure things out and even then that run was relatively short," he mentioned. "So if you're able to put together a team like this, you're generally going to have a short window because you can't pay all those guys to keep them together. There's the short window that's going to end relatively quickly and it's not as easy as going out to play."
In particular, Robinson brought up the Warriors losing a few key role players this summer in the pursuit of Durant, which might mess with chemistry early on. "It's not that easy and people can say what they want to say, but it's still up in the air," he said. "Nobody thought Cleveland would win the championship this year. There were four teams in the West they said they couldn't beat and they were down 3-1 and they came back and won so you just never know. You can't write the script."
With the NBA season slated to kick off in a couple months, it's safe to say that all eyes will be on the Warriors and if they can match the insanely high expectations.