Brooklyn Nets small forward Cam Johnson recently returned from representing Team USA at the FIBA World Cup, where the national squad had high hopes of securing gold.
However, the tournament didn’t unfold as expected, with Team USA ultimately finishing in fourth place. In a candid interview on The Old Man & The Three podcast with JJ Redick, Johnson shared his thoughts on the competition and why his team fell short of their goal.
Johnson began by emphasizing that there’s “no excuse” for not winning, both individually and collectively. The disappointment of falling short of their goal weighed heavily on the players, who had invested significant time and effort in their FIBA World Cup campaign.
“Firstly, there’s no excuse for not winning,” he said. “It hurts us individually, collectively more than anybody. It’s disappointing. You put a lot of time into those things and you want the outcome that you want. You don’t get it, it’s very frustrating.”
The NBA player highlighted that FIBA basketball is a unique and distinct game compared to the NBA. The style of play, officiating, and minor rule differences require a different approach. Johnson noted that players can’t treat FIBA games the same way they do NBA contests.
“FIBA’s a different game. It’s a different game,” Johnson continued. “You see guys playing for their national teams, like you said, you can’t treat them like the players they’re in the NBA. You just cant.
“Just the flow of the game, the way it’s played, the way it’s officiated, the minor rule changes. It’s different. And there’s different focuses when you’re playing, everybody in the NBA sort of plays a very similar style of basketball, like there has been a style of basketball that analytically or success-wise has dictated… it’s a copycat league. Eventually everything’s going to catch up and evolve.”
One of the key differences Johnson pointed out is the physicality of FIBA basketball. Teams representing their nations play with a distinct style and approach that is different from the standardized NBA style. This unique physicality and playing style make FIBA competitions a valuable learning experience for NBA players.
Johnson shared his admiration for the efficiency and teamwork displayed by teams like Slovenia and Spain, particularly during exhibition games leading up to the tournament. He noted their ability to run offense smoothly and their cohesiveness, which comes from playing together for extended periods.
“But the physicality is different, the way they play is different and they don’t really care how the game’s played in the NBA,” the 27-year-old player said. “They’re going to play their way. So it was a super interesting experience to see that.
“And it opened our eyes quickly as we’re playing against Slovenia and Spain in those exhibition games. Those teams run offense very efficiently. You can tell they’ve been playing together for a long time. So it’s like ‘Okay, this is what we’re in store for.’
“Also, they crash the glass like nobody’s business and they’re just efficient, they’re accountable, they play hard, they play for each other.
“On a pure basketball side of things, it’s beautiful to watch. It’s basketball globally. Everybody speaking different languages, everybody looks completely different and everybody’s able to kind of play their own style of basketball…”
In the end, Johnson stressed that Team USA had no excuses for not securing victory in the FIBA World Cup. Despite facing global competition with varying styles and strategies, Team USA was comprised of talented NBA players who should have been able to adapt and succeed on the international stage.
“People say we didn’t have this, we didn’t have that, we should have sent this… We had NBA players, there’s no excuse not to win. It’s basketball, the nature of the game,” Johnson said.