Team USA: Thompson, Barnes, Green join forces with Cavs' Irving
POSTED: Jun 28, 2016 10:57 PM ET
Irving With The Clutch Three
Kyrie Irving nails the 3-pointer that proved to be the Game 7 winner for the Champion Cavaliers.
NEW YORK — One week was not enough for the wounds to heal.
The Golden State Warriors were able to avoid much of the Cleveland Cavaliers' championship celebration. It's doubtful that any of them watched the parade on Wednesday. But in New York on Monday, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson had no choice but to come face to face with the guy who hit the shot that beat them less than eight days prior.
Barnes, Green and Thompson, along with the Cavs' Kyrie Irving, were officially introduced Monday as members of the U.S. Men's Senior National Team that will compete at the Olympics in Rio this August. While several All-Stars declined to participate this year, this quartet didn't let the grind of a season that went down to the final minute of Game 7 of The Finals get in the way of their commitment.
USA Basketball: Kyrie Irving
NBA TV's Jared Greenberg speaks with Kyrie Irving who has been selected to the 2016 U.S. Men's National basketball team who will compete in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
"I was on board whether we won or lost," Thompson said.
"There was never a decision to be made," Green added. "If I was invited, I was playing."
Sometimes an entire NBA season, 1,314 games in total, can come down to one shot. Irving made one of the biggest baskets in NBA history, a step-back 3-pointer that gave the Cavs a 92-89 lead with 53 seconds to go in Game 7. It was the only shot from the field that either team made in the final 4:39 of the game and it was the difference between the Cavs ending Cleveland's 52-year title drought and the Warriors capping off the greatest season in NBA history.
Because Irving made the shot, another kind of history was made. The Warriors became the first team to lose The Finals after holding a 3-1 lead. That's a distinction that hurts more than a standard elimination.
Thompson, in particular, was still feeling the pain on Monday, after the U.S. Team was introduced at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem.
"It's very hard," Thompson admitted to NBA.com. "We're all very competitive and we thought that was our championship to win. Give credit to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They played great. But we felt like we let go of the rope. It's tough, man. I'm not going to lie to you. It's only a week old, so we continue to think about Game 7, little things we could have done to win it."
And while the Warriors are still hurting, Irving is still flying high after his heroics and one of the most improbable title wins we've ever seen.
Warriors: Klay Thompson
Warriors guard Klay Thompson reflects on the 2015-16 season during his end-of-season media availability on Monday, June 20.
"He's smiling ear to ear, he's bouncing off the walls, and he's got jokes for days," Barnes said. "But at the end of the day, you kind of have to put that aside for a minute to compete for a gold."
Of course, it helps that the Warriors already have a championship. Right now, they're even with the Cavs, their 2015 title dulls the pain a little bit, and the Warriors won't be falling out of title contention anytime soon.
"Oh, I'd be sick," Barnes said. "I'd be sick right now if we didn't have one."
"Lucky for us," Thompson added, "we're a young team, we got a young core, and there will be plenty of opportunities in the future to get back where we want to go."
The three Warriors on the USA roster have a few more weeks before they have to get in the gym with Irving in Las Vegas for the start of the U.S. Team's training camp. But all four of the guys who went toe-to-toe for seven games earlier this month are ready to turn the page and try to win eight games together in Rio.
"We all come into this thing with one goal," Green said. "It's not about what Cleveland did or what the Warriors did or what OKC did. We all come to this with one goal, and that's to win the gold medal. Everything else is beneath that."
Finals opponents teaming up at the Olympics in the ensuing summer certainly isn't unprecedented. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen teamed with Clyde Drexler in 1992. Pippen teamed with Gary Payton in 1996. And LeBron James teamed with three members of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012.
Thompson and Irving played together on the 2014 World Cup team in Spain. So before they faced off in The Finals, they had already celebrated a gold medal together.
When it's time to compete against each other, we compete. When it's time to put USA across our chests, nothing else really matters.
– Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving
"It's really unique," Thompson said. "You compete against these guys ... Like I saw Kyrie celebrating an NBA championship a week ago. I couldn't stand the guy. Now, a week later, I get to play with him again.
"You build these competitive relationships that are going to last a long time, because we know the basketball's going to stop dribbling one day. And you'll reflect with your coworkers here about the times you fought against each other, about the times you just couldn't stand each other, and the times you won together. So it's pretty cool."
Irving is on the right side of this whole thing and it was clearly a lot easier for him to see the Warriors' faces on Monday than it was for them to see his. But for him, the NBA "fraternity" is stronger than any on-court rivalry, no matter the result.
"There's competition on the floor," Irving said of his relationship with the Warriors, "but there's no personal ill will that I would wish on any of those guys. At the end of the day, they're championship winners. They beat us last year and we beat them this year. There's nothing personal or anything like that. We have great relationships on and off the floor.
"When it's time to compete against each other, we compete. When it's time to put USA across our chests, nothing else really matters."
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