USA Basketball announces its men’s team for the Paris Olympics

USA Basketball announces its men’s team for the Paris Olympics

USA Basketball studied every men’s basketball game it has played for about two decades and a clear trend eventually appeared. When the defense isn’t good enough, the Americans tend to get themselves into trouble.

And the team for the Paris Olympics was built with that in mind.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyrese Haliburton, Anthony Edwards and Kawhi Leonard were formally announced as members of the U.S. Olympic team on Wednesday — a group with nearly 200,000 NBA points, 84 All-Star Game selections and 10 Olympic gold medals between them.

“You want obviously talented individuals, but you want players who can blend and can fit and can play certain roles that you need,” USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill said Wednesday. “But I think defense was certainly a priority and having guys that were capable of locking down, guarding multiple sets within a possession.”

The thinking is simple: Scoring shouldn’t be a problem, and if the defense does its job, the Americans — looking for a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal — will be tough to beat.

The group has seven players with gold medals; Durant has three, James has two, while Adebayo, Booker, Holiday, Tatum and Booker each have one. Combined, the 12 players had averages of 24.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists this season, shooting 39% from 3-point range.

“Obviously, it’s a great honor to represent your country,” Adebayo said. “But for me, to be in that room as part of those 12 players, part of who they think are the 12 best players to represent the United States, it takes it to a different level.”

The amount of talent on the U.S. roster is staggering. Of the 12 selections, seven finished the season ranked among the NBA’s top 15 scorers per game. James is the league’s all-time scoring leader, Curry the all-time leader in 3-pointers, Haliburton won the assist-per-game title this season and 10 were All-Stars this season as well.

“The goal is to win the gold,” Hill said. “They know that.”

The timing of Wednesday’s announcement coincided with the U.S. Olympic summit in New York and the window where the Americans were celebrating the start of a 100-day countdown to the opening ceremony in Paris. USA Basketball could have waited longer to announce but saw no point.

“There will be a lot of interest and a lot of people who will want to be along for this incredible journey we’re about to be on,” Hill said. “So, if we know, why wait?”

The Americans remain ranked No. 1 in the world by FIBA even after failing to medal in the two most recent World Cups — finishing seventh at China in 2019 and fourth at Manila last summer.

They won gold at the Tokyo Games by topping France 87-82. A slew of other nations will expect to contend for gold in Paris — the host French, reigning World Cup champion Germany, Serbia and Canada among them — but the American roster has a depth of NBA stars that no other country can reach.

“Your hope is that they haven’t played together before,” Canada’s Kelly Olynyk said when told this weekend of the U.S. roster, “other than the 12 last All-Star games.”

Hill led the task of assembling the roster, a process that took about 18 months, and the plan all along was to put together the team well in advance of training camp starting at Las Vegas in early July. Players were given their jerseys in visits by Hill or other USA Basketball officials in recent days, or in some cases got them at practice with their team.

Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) celebrates after hitting a three-point basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the end of the third quarter in an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Friday, April 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) celebrates after hitting a three-point basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the end of the third quarter in an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Friday, April 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards celebrates the win against the Washington Wizards after an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Matt Krohn)

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards celebrates the win against the Washington Wizards after an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Matt Krohn)

“The common theme, when we’ve lost, was our defense wasn’t good enough,” U.S. coach Steve Kerr said. “That doesn’t sound like anything earth-shattering. We feel like we are going to score points. We’re going to have a lot of talent and we’re going to find a way to score. But the international game is more physical and we’ve addressed that.”

Durant has said since last year that he plans to play, which means he will pursue becoming the first men’s player in Olympic history with four basketball gold medals. He and Carmelo Anthony are the only men’s players with three Olympic golds; there are six women, all American, with at least four Olympic basketball golds. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi each have five, while Teresa Edwards, Tamika Catchings, Sylvia Fowles and Lisa Leslie each won four.

James will seek a fourth medal, after winning bronze in 2004 and golds in 2008 and 2012. The other past gold medalists on the roster are Davis (2012), Adebayo (2020), Booker (2020), Tatum (2020) and Holiday (2020). The 2020 gold medals were won in 2021, since the COVID-19 pandemic forced a one-year delay of the Tokyo Games.

Curry will play in the Olympics for the first time, as will Leonard and Embiid — who chose to play for the U.S. last year after becoming an American citizen. The Cameroon-born center also could have chosen to represent France at the Paris Games.

The other first-time Olympians on the current roster are Haliburton and Edwards, both of whom played for the U.S. team that finished fourth at the World Cup in Manila last year.

“I definitely wanted this experience,” Curry said. “I think the timing is just right.”

There were more than 40 players under consideration for this team. Getting the roster to 12 was far from easy.

“I think everybody understands that these Olympics are going to be maybe the most anticipated, given that it’s Paris, in terms of players wanting to go, players’ wives wanting to go, everybody wanting to go,” Kerr said. “It made for some really difficult decisions for us, for sure.”

Durant and Curry said in October that they wanted to play this summer, Adebayo said then that he had already committed to the team, and it’s been assumed for some time that if players like James want to play, then all they have to do is say so.

The U.S. men have competed in basketball at the Olympics 19 times, winning 19 medals — 16 gold, one silver and two bronze.

The Paris team will be coached by Kerr, assisted by Erik Spoelstra, Tyronn Lue and Mark Few. It’s still possible that the roster changes before the summer, if injuries or deep runs in the NBA playoffs force players to change their minds about committing to the national team.

“We have a contingency plan,” Hill said, “and we have that at every position.”

___

AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games

Related Articles