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Chris Paul downplays Team USA’s struggles: ‘Now it’s the world’s game’

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Chris Paul may have decided to skip out on playing with Team USA the Rio Olympics, but even he recognizes from afar that other countries may be catching up to the United States.

The Los Angeles Clippers superstar point guard believes that the U.S. men’s basketball team’s so-called struggles so far in Rio don’t stem from anything the team is doing wrong. Instead, he contends, it’s all about what other squads are doing right.

“The game of basketball used to be ‘America’s’ game,” Paul said, via ESPN’s Jovan Buha. “Now it’s the world’s game. … It’s not the game that it used to be. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Team USA, it’s just that everyone [else] is getting better.”

Team USA did go undefeated in the group stage, winning all five games. But the team failed to dominate as expected. The supposed trouble began with a 10-point win over Australia. This relatively close call was followed by a minuscule three-point victory over Serbia. And then there was the three-point win over China on Saturday. These three closer-than-expected outcomes got analysts and fans alike wondering what’s plaguing the team, if anything at all.

Some argue the relative unfamiliarity players have on the roster for their teammates — especially when compared to other national teams — may be one of the causes. Others argue it’s an unwillingness to commit to playing tough defense. Others believe tinkering with the lineup could pay dividends.

Whether it’s one of these things, a little bit of all of them or something else entirely, the fact that Team USA lacks a dominating aura cannot be denied. Perhaps Paul is right and it’s simply a matter of the rest of the world catching up. Perhaps not.

One thing that cannot be denied, though, is that Team USA boasts the most talented roster in Rio, even without Paul, LeBron James and Stephen Curry, among others.

With Team USA set to play Argentina in the quarterfinals Wednesday, the squad nevertheless remains the prohibitive favorites to win gold. It just might not be as pretty and dominant as many expected.

[CBS Sports]