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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Rubio is the latest example of how foreign NBA players are more comfortable on their national teams

Ricky Rubio blocks Bam Adebayo during the Team USA men’s win over Spain.

Ricky Rubio blocks Bam Adebayo during the Team USA men’s win over Spain.
Image: Getty Images

Damian Lillard was right about some of these foreign NBA guys.

These players from overseas have been getting buckets in this Olympics and they don’t care who is in front of them. The United States squad has had to face off against a few of its NBA peers on the road to winning a gold medal, and needless to say, the Americans have been getting done up.

“You know who we see each night sometimes in the NBA, they are completely different when they play for their countries, ” said Lillard after losing to France to begin these Olympic games. “They got more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious.”

A collection of NBA reserves gave the United States the business when they lost to Nigeria in one of the exhibition games. France’s Evan Fournier dropped 28 points on 50 percent shooting when that team gave the United States its first loss in Olympic competition since 2004. Fournier, who is recognized as a role player in the NBA, showed that he can be a superstar overseas. Even last night was evidence of the fact that these guys move differently playing for their country. Ricky Rubio played the best game I’ve ever seen from him. He was excellent for Spain, with 38 points on 13-20 shooting.

It was the most points ever scored by one player against the United States in the Olympics or World Championships. The second-highest scoring output against the United States was registered by the great Dirk Nowitzki in 2002, when he put a 34-point performance on the Americans in the World Championships.

Luckily, Durant was able to get hot in the third quarter and score 13 of his 29 points in that period to help the United States advance to the semifinals. Team USA will either take on Australia or Argentina for a chance to advance to the gold medal game.

It’s no secret that the FIBA game is different from the NBA — the physicality, the pace of play, and the rules themselves make it a unique brand of basketball. It’s clear some players and teams just know how to play this game more effectively than the United States.

This means a person like Rubio, who averaged 8.6 points a game last year, can drop 38 on the most talented team in the world.

We have to start viewing these foreign NBA guys differently when they put on their country’s jersey. Something switches that allows them to be superstars on the international stage.

We may need to stop downplaying these guys and their talent level.


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