July 24, 2024

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The US men’s Olympic basketball team arrived in Las Vegas for training camp

The US men’s Olympic basketball team arrived in Las Vegas for training camp

Photo: David Zalubowski/AP Photo

Kobe Bryant once said to US Olympic men’s basketball coach Steve Kerr that it feels even more important now.

It’s about how other countries have made great strides in basketball, how the gap between the rest of the world and the US is closing, and how big it is for the NBA. Bryant’s response, paraphrased, is essentially “So what?”

His point: If everyone else is doing well, America better find ways to do the same.

“Maybe we’ll show it to the guys,” Kerr said. “I like that and that should be our approach this summer.”

After months of planning, it’s time for the U.S. Olympic team to take the field as they head to the Paris Games later this month in search of their fifth straight gold medal. The team’s first practice is on Saturday, a four-day training camp before the opening game against Canada.

Gamblers began arriving in Las Vegas Thursday; Stephen Curry was the first to attend the camp, perhaps underlining how excited he is for what will be his first Olympics. The 12 players have known each other for years, but the work of building a team begins in earnest on Saturday.

“It feels like everything starts when you get there. You have these conversations, you have a lot of conversations about what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do,” said Pam Adebayo, who is looking for her second gold medal after winning one at the Tokyo Games three years ago. It’s time to be honest about what we want to do.”

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This part is simple: earn gold.

How to divide is what matters.

Last year brought another humbling World Cup experience for the US; After finishing seventh in 2019, the Americans finished fourth in Manila. But the argument — or justification, for lack of a better word — is that America has not sent the best team to these tournaments for these setbacks. Getting big names like Kevin Durant and LeBron James to the Olympics is one thing. It’s another thing to invite them to the World Cup and represent their country in successive summers.

Dyers Halliburton and Anthony Edwards made the World Cup team last summer and were also selected for the Olympic team.

“Obviously, we didn’t do what we wanted to do last year,” Halliburton said. “It was frustrating because whenever you represent USA Basketball, the expectation is to win. And we just couldn’t do that.”

This group was created with a very different outcome in mind. James returns to the Olympic team for the first time since 2012 and is seeking his third gold, Durant is seeking what would be his fourth men’s Olympic basketball gold, and five players — Adebayo, Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, Jayson Tatum and Anthony Davis — all have one. Halliburton, Edwards, Curry, Kawhi Leonard and Joel Embiid are first-time Olympians, with the Philadelphia star playing for the U.S. despite strong pressure from France to represent the host nation in Paris.

Good luck to pick the starting team.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Kerr said. “I think all 12 players on this list will be in the Hall of Fame someday. So how do you choose five out of 12? The idea is to find combinations that click and two-way sequences that work on both ends. Our big job in Las Vegas is to find five-man combinations that fit together and ask all 12 players to fully commit to the goal of winning the gold medal, no matter what that looks like, no matter who’s playing.”

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The Americans open against Canada, in Las Vegas, and then play in Abu Dhabi (against Australia and Serbia) and London (against South Sudan and Germany) before the Paris games begin. The U.S. opens the Olympics on July 28 against Serbia and will also have group stage games against South Sudan and the winner of Sunday’s qualifiers in Mexico, Lithuania, Italy or Puerto Rico.

“We’ve got 39 days to get that gold medal, 12 amazing, talented guys ready to hit a goal,” Curry said as he arrived to visit camp. “I’m excited about everything.”