Bad news for American basketball fans is the team representing you did not earn a medal at the World Cup in China. The best it can do now is finish seventh.
Good news for Jazz fans is a major reason the team representing you did not earn a medal at the World Cup in China is because of Rudy Gobert, who scored 21 points and had 16 rebounds in France’s win over Team USA.
More good news for Jazz fans is Donovan Mitchell was the single highlight for Team USA in that defeat, having carried whatever hopes his team had for hanging with France, scoring 29 points, hauling six rebounds and collecting four assists. He scored 14 points in the third quarter alone, after Team USA fell behind by double-digits.
More good news for Jazz fans is Joe Ingles has been an important contributor to Australia, which has made it to the semifinals in China.
While the U.S. was eliminated from medal contention, the Jazz may have won more than anyone else in this whole affair, their players not only flourishing in key roles for their individual outfits, but on account of the experience — particularly for Mitchell and Gobert — gained in such a competition.
To the surprise of nobody around here, Mitchell, still only 23 years old, emerged as an authentic, conscientious leader for Team USA. He benefited from playing at the hand of Gregg Popovich, considered by many to be the best basketball coach on the planet, soaking up all the knowledge he could from start to finish through this international competition, and the practices that went with it.
In an upcoming NBA season in which Mitchell will be counted on to become not just the primary source of propulsion for the Jazz, but also their rudder, his burgeoning role being absolutely critical for the team’s plans to climb through the NBA’s hierarchy, what happened over the past month with Team USA indicates he’s grabbing ahold of that role.
That was him blocking Mitchell’s shot on a drive to the basket at the end of a key possession for the U.S. late, one of the occurrences Gobert is sure to remind his teammate of when they reconvene in the weeks ahead in the run-up to preseason camp.
For whatever strange reason, there still appears to be pieces of resistance, at least among a few skeptics, about the Jazz big’s place atop the pinnacle of NBA defenders. Fact is, he is the best defensive basketball player in the world, and his showing for France has done little to diminish that truth. And his efficient, effective scoring continues to ascend, even without a traditional go-to move in the low post. His go-to move is to dunk the ever-loving mercy out of the ball, which he’ll do time and time again this coming season, after leading the NBA in dunks last year.
Both Mitchell and Gobert have said their main goal is to win an NBA championship with the Jazz, and they see, as Mitchell once put it, “no reason” they cannot make their intentions real. Especially now that the Jazz have added to their offensive prowess with players such as Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, among others.
In classic Gobert style, he said after beating Team USA: “We came here to win gold.”
Ingles’ showing for the Aussies has helped boost them, Joe doing Joe things en route, including falling just short of gaining the first triple-double in World Cup play, when he totaled 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in a game against Senegal.
Even though Team USA lost, with a roster that was young and mostly substandard when compared to rosters of the past, Mitchell, who may not have made that final roster had so many NBA All-Stars availed themselves for it, now has put himself in a position to make next year’s U.S. Olympic team, regardless of who joins that cause.
The most significant development of all to this point in World Cup play, and maybe it should go unmentioned with games yet to play, is that none of the Jazz players has gotten seriously hurt. They’ve only benefited from their recent play, as long as they rest up in the days ahead for whatever it is that comes next.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.