LaVine cleared, USA Basketball awaits 3 NBA Finals players

Jul 20, 2021, 4:07 PM | Updated: Jul 21, 2021, 4:18 am

USA Basketball expects to have its full 12-man roster available for Sunday’s matchup against France, the first game for both teams in the Tokyo Olympics.

Zach LaVine has been cleared to exit the health and safety protocols that stemmed from a coronavirus testing-related issue, will fly to Japan and rejoin the team on Thursday. And the plan is that the three players from the NBA Finals — Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday from the newly crowned champion Milwaukee Bucks and Devin Booker from the Phoenix Suns — will be in place on Saturday.

“I’ve got to celebrate this and then get on a flight and represent my country,” Holiday said in Milwaukee, where the Bucks clinched the title.

The rest of the American roster worked out in Japan for the first time on Wednesday, a day after its flight from Las Vegas. The likelihood remains that the team — which has already seen JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson added in place of Kevin Love and Bradley Beal — will have just one full practice together before its games start to count.

“There’s not a whole lot you can do when they get here the day before,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said Wednesday from Tokyo. “Luckily, it’s basketball. Try to keep it simple and take care of what we think we can take care of. … The good thing is, they’ll be in shape. I don’t know how the plane’s going to affect them, because it’s not an easy flight.”

The Americans arrived in Tokyo with just eight players from the 12-man roster because of LaVine’s situation and the NBA Finals.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Olympic veteran Kevin Durant said. “Adding three guys, two champions, newly crowned champions and another guy who’s been on that stage and knows what it’s all about to win big games and play big games … it’s going to help.”

Durant said the Olympic team watched Game 6 of the NBA Finals together — without any rooting interest. Durant and the Brooklyn Nets lost a Game 7 at home to Milwaukee in the second round, an overtime thriller in which Durant played every second. He nearly won the game for Brooklyn at the end of regulation; his long jumper that tied the game was nearly a 3-pointer that would have served as a game-winner, but his toe was on the line.

He tipped his cap to the Bucks after watching them celebrate their title.

“Congrats to the Bucks, an amazing team who fought through a lot the last few years to get to this point,” Durant said. “Nothing but respect for them.”

___

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LaVine cleared, USA Basketball awaits 3 NBA Finals players