U.S. Men's Basketball Players Need Team 'Mentality' Heading Into Iran Game, Coach Says

Getting players adjusted to new roles is not a new issue for USA Basketball — virtually every team the national governing body for the sport puts together features players used to being the star of their high school, college or pro teams.

But for the U.S. men's team chosen to play at the Tokyo Olympics, figuring out those roles and how the pieces best fit is still a work in progress, according to assistant coach Lloyd Pierce. He said his players need a team mentality heading into their game against Iran on Wednesday.

"It is a challenge to figure out how to stay aggressive while also playing for the team," Pierce said on Tuesday. "A lot of these guys are used to a lot of shots, more minutes, more opportunities and now they're playing with a great player to their right and a great player to their left.

"So, we need them to be as confident as they always are. We need them to do it as a unit, and we need them to learn they don't have to make the same place that they make on the NBA teams — but they need to have the same mentality and mindset."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Kevin Durant
U.S. men's basketball assistant coach Lloyd Pierce said his players need a team mentality heading into their game against Iran on Wednesday. This photo shows Kevin Durant of USA during the Men's Preliminary Round Group B basketball game between United States and France on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Super Arena on July 25, 2021 in Saitama, Japan Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Kevin Durant was the leading scorer for Brooklyn this past season. Same goes for Damian Lillard in Portland, Devin Booker in Phoenix, Jayson Tatum in Boston, Zach LaVine in Chicago and Jerami Grant in Detroit.

At home, they're all probably the guy with the ball when games are on the line.

At the Olympics, that won't be the case.

"Alpha, leader, I mean, that stuff changes from game to game," said Durant, already a two-time Olympic gold medalist. "Guys get hot. Different guys may lead us in scoring. ... Everybody chips in."

Durant's point was clear: Someone needs to lead in every game, but it doesn't always have to be the same someone. The U.S. (0-1) plays Iran (0-1) on Wednesday in a Group A game in Saitama, favored to win the game in a landslide by FanDuel, and it could be an opportunity for both some momentum to be formed and for roles to become more clearly defined going forward.

The U.S. shot just 36 percent in its opening loss to France, the worst percentage from any of the 12 teams in their respective first Olympic contests at Saitama.

The 76 points by the Americans was second lowest of any team (Nigeria scored only 67) — and was the second-lowest point total in any game by a U.S. men's team in the Olympics in the last 45 years. The Americans scored 73 in a loss to Puerto Rico to open the 2004 Olympics, the most recent one in which the U.S. did not win gold.

Durant said the Americans spent much of its practice time Monday and Tuesday working on the offense.

"Looking forward to tomorrow," he said.

USA Men's Basketball
U.S. men's basketball assistant coach Lloyd Pierce said his players need a team mentality heading into their game against Iran on Wednesday. In this pic, coach Gregg Popovich, left, and forward Kevin Durant (7) look on from the side line during their loss to France in a men's basketball preliminary round game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. Eric Gay/AP Photo