There are few surprises in USA Basketball’s men’s player pool for the Paris Olympics that was announced Tuesday, with most of the big names like LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant on the list.
The surprise may have been who was missing.
Draymond Green, who helped the U.S. win gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games and then another title at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics in 2021, was not among the 41 names released by USA Basketball as candidates for the team that will compete in Paris this summer in search of a fifth consecutive gold medal.
The naming of the pool is the first official phase in the process of assembling a 12-player Olympic roster that will be coached by Golden State's Steve Kerr and assisted by Miami's Erik Spoelstra, the Los Angeles Clippers' Tyronn Lue and Gonzaga's Mark Few. Team selection will be finalized this spring, with many of those decisions likely hinging upon player health and how deep their respective teams go in the NBA playoffs.
“The United States boasts unbelievable basketball talent and I am thrilled that many of the game’s superstars have expressed interest in representing our country at the 2024 Olympic Summer Games,” men’s national team managing director Grant Hill said. “It is a privilege to select the team that will help us toward the goal of once again standing atop the Olympic podium. This challenging process will unfold over the next several months as we eagerly anticipate the start of national team activity.”
The pool, which is subject to change, includes 13 players who already have Olympic gold medals — Durant has three, James and Chris Paul each have two, while Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo, Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, James Harden, Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving and Paul George each have one.
If he plays and the U.S. wins, Durant would be the first men’s player with four basketball golds.
“I will play in the Olympics,” Durant adamantly said last fall at Phoenix’s media day.
The other 28 players on the list are headlined by a pair who may make their Olympic debuts — Embiid and Curry among them. Both said last year that they would like to play on the Paris-bound U.S. team, though again, nothing will be finalized until their NBA seasons end.
“Definitely want to be there,” Curry said last fall. “Definitely want to be on the team.”
Embiid — the reigning NBA MVP, two-time scoring champion and Philadelphia star who scored 70 points Monday night — could have decided to play for France (he has dual citizenship) or even Cameroon, his birthplace, if it qualifies. He chose to play for the U.S. last fall instead.
“When he gets motivated … anything can happen,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said.
Also picked for the pool: Jarrett Allen, Paolo Banchero, Desmond Bane, Scottie Barnes, Mikal Bridges, Jaylen Brown, Jalen Brunson, Alex Caruso, Anthony Edwards, De’Aaron Fox, Aaron Gordon, Tyrese Haliburton, Josh Hart, Tyler Herro, Chet Holmgren, Brandon Ingram, Jaren Jackson Jr., Cam Johnson, Walker Kessler, Kawhi Leonard, Donovan Mitchell, Bobby Portis, Austin Reaves, Duncan Robinson, Derrick White and Trae Young.
“We get to go to Paris. We get to go do something special,” said Adebayo, who got his first gold in 2021 and is expected to be part of the 2024 team. “I reflect on it and I get excited because I get an opportunity to do something special — twice.”
Green had expressed some interest last year in being part of the Paris-bound team.
But the Golden State forward missed 16 games spanning mid-December to mid-January while serving what was originally called an indefinite suspension for striking Phoenix center Jusuf Nurkić in the face. Green said he considered retiring and sought counseling before he was reinstated.
Players not in the pool aren’t exactly ineligible to make the Olympic team; while it is a long shot, it has happened before. San Antonio’s Keldon Johnson was not one of the 57 players USA Basketball announced in March 2021 as a pool member, but he was eventually selected for the Tokyo Games team and won a gold medal under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
That said, it took an extraordinary set of circumstances for Johnson to be in that position.
He was on the U.S. Select Team that practiced against the Olympic team to help it prepare for the Tokyo Games, got promoted to the national team in part because some players were still taking part in the NBA Finals, then got added to the Olympic roster (along with JaVale McGee) when Bradley Beal and Kevin Love — both of whom had been picked for the team — had to drop out late in the process.
AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games