RIO DE JANEIRO — There were so many questions about their cushy accommodations it seemed the Americans were on vacation.
Yes, the U.S. men’s basketball team is staying on a cruise ship, with gorgeous views of Brazil’s beautiful beaches.
But the Americans didn’t come to Rio de Janeiro for fun and sun.
“We know what’s our task at hand,” veteran Carmelo Anthony said. “This is business for us. We’re going out there to take care of business.”
The U.S. team had its international introduction Thursday with its Olympic news conference, answering plenty of questions about where they’re staying (the luxury yacht) and who’s not playing (LeBron James and Stephen Curry).
It was the usual spectacle for a team that always draws a crowd at the Olympics, no matter who is on the roster. This one features 10 players with no Olympic experience, with only Anthony and Kevin Durant back from the team that won the Americans’ second straight gold medal in 2012.
They’re still considered the team to beat even with their inexperience, which is why Paul George had such trouble with his first attempt at Portuguese.
A local journalist tried to teach him the word for underdog, then asked if there was any chance the U.S. could fill that role.
“Of us being underdog?” he said. “No, I don’t think we’re the underdog.”
Try heavy, heavy favorite.
The Americans open on Saturday against China, a team they beat by 49 and 50 points in exhibition play. So that game shouldn’t be close, and it might be a while before they get one — if they get one — that is. But the U.S. players say they aren’t thinking that way.
“You have to worry about everybody,” forward Draymond Green said. “Every team is here for a reason. They qualified somehow. … We can’t come out here and say, ‘Oh, we’re the United States and we’re supposed to win,’ or ‘We have this person and that person and we’re supposed to win.’ We have to be locked in every game. If you don’t, you’ll get beat.”
The Americans arrived in Rio on Wednesday from Houston, where they completed their exhibition tour. They held their first practice at the arena Thursday as they get their sea legs under them.
Anthony stayed on a cruise ship in his first Olympics, when they finished third in 2004 in Athens. They’re on a ship again, along with the U.S. women’s team, in part because of a shortage of hotel space compared to recent hosts Beijing and London, and Anthony doesn’t see why it’s such a big deal.
“It’s no different than us staying in the hotel,” he said. “It’s not like we’re cruising around. We’re docked. We have the same amenities as if we were staying in the hotel.”
He joked that the beds were small for basketball players, but it’s expected to be smooth sailing for this group. The Americans may have seemed vulnerable when James, Curry and a number of other superstars declined to play, but the players who did accept invites have had a few weeks to work on getting better on the court and getting along off it.
“We’re a group of guys that range from age of 24 to, I don’t know how old Carmelo is, 40?” center DeAndre Jordan said. “So we have so much fun together and everybody’s so competitive and we all want to win, and when you got guys like that, it makes it that much more fun.”
Anthony is actually 32, and his first Olympic experience 12 years ago was a mostly miserable one. He plans to leave better than he came in.
“I know what it felt like when kind of the rest of the world was supposedly catching up with the USA as far as from a basketball standpoint. So I know what it felt like to be at the bottom and I know what it feels like to be at the top of the game as well,” Anthony said.
“My goal is to help this team and lead this time to a gold medal.”