ATHENS - Carmelo Anthony's cell phone kept ringing Sunday and on into yesterday. All the calls were from the United States. All the questions were the same: What happened? What happened, indeed? How did the U.S. lose its Olympic opener Sunday night to Puerto Rico, not on anybody's list of international basketball powerhouses.
"Everybody was asking that," said Anthony, the former Towson Catholic star.
Coach Larry Brown and his players know they must come up with some answers by tonight when they return to Helleniko Indoor Arena to face Greece, a team that won its Olympic opener, 76-54, over Australia. Greece was led in scoring by Lazaros Papadopoulos (21 points).
Maybe Brown should talk to John Thompson, the former Georgetown coach who led the last U.S. basketball team to fall short of Olympic gold. The year was 1988, the place was Seoul, and the result was an 82-76 loss to the old Soviet Union in the semifinals.
"I don't think it's that much of an upset," said Thompson. "It takes time to teach team defensive concepts the way Larry wants to play."
Don't trying telling Thompson a team of superstars should dominate regardless of the circumstances.
"Those boys [Puerto Rico] ... were capable of playing basketball. I think it's unfair when people portray it as if the [U.S.] guys aren't hustling, that the guys aren't trying. That's us going through denial of the fact that [other Olympic teams] have reached the point that they have. It's a reality check we haven't accepted, one that's been going on for a long time."
Los Angeles Times staff writer J.A. Adande contributed to this article. The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.