Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart are experienced enough to use the agony of defeat as motivation.
The Boston Celtics guards vowed Wednesday that the U.S. men’s basketball team will bounce back from its 89-79 upset loss to France in the 2019 FIBA World Cup quarterfinals. The defeat eliminated the U.S. from contention to medal in the tournament, but Smart and Walker promised the team will do its best in the fifth- to eighth-place bracket.
“We learned a lot,” Smart said, per USA Basketball’s website. “For a lot of us it was our first time, so we came out and gave it everything. I?m proud of every last one of my teammates. We got another game (Thursday against Serbia in the fifth-to eighth-place semifinals), so it?s not over with. We have to come out and compete.”
After crediting France, Walker made no excuses for the disappointingly early elimination, which ended Team USA’s 58-game winning streak at major international tournaments.
“I’s tough obviously, to lose a game,” he said. “But much respect to the French team. They played well and came out with a big win.
“Just got to take it like a man at this point. We lost. There?s nothing we can do. We competed. We?ve been competing since day one that we got to training camp. But we gave it everything we?ve got. I know we’re Team USA and things of that nature and they?ve been winning for a lot of years, but you know, we didn?t get a chance to pull it off.”
This U.S. squad is the first since 2006 to fail to win a major international tournament when the team consists of NBA players. Attitudes like Walker’s and Smart’s will help prevent Team USA from suffering the same fate in the immediate future.