Trio Of NBA Finals Players Finally Arrives At Tokyo Olympics

Jul 24, 2021, 9:25 AM
Khris Middleton - MIlwaukee Bucks...
Khris Middleton celebrates with the Larry O'Brien trophy during the Milwaukee Bucks 2021 NBA Championship Victory Parade and Rally in the Deer District of Fiserv Forum on July 22, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — The U.S. men’s basketball team is finally together.

Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday — the trio of U.S. Olympians who were in the NBA Finals and therefore have not been around their Tokyo Games teammates — arrived in Japan on Saturday night, less than 24 hours before the Americans’ scheduled Olympic opener against France.

How much they play on Sunday remains unclear. U.S. coach Gregg Popovich has said he would gauge their role based on how they were feeling after the flights.

“You’re talking about three true professionals, three extremely, extremely competitive guys that wouldn’t be on their way here if this didn’t mean something,” U.S. forward Draymond Green said Saturday. “They all just finished competing in the NBA Finals, just finished completing an NBA season. … I have a lot of respect for those guys for not only committing to do this but actually keeping their word.”

Middleton and Holiday initially flew from Milwaukee to Seattle on Friday evening, making that trip a day after the Bucks had their championship parade to celebrate topping Phoenix in six games for the NBA title. Booker flew from Phoenix to Seattle, getting there Friday night a few minutes after the Bucks arrived.

Booker hopped on the plane with Middleton and Holiday, and it took them about nine hours to get from Seattle to Tokyo. They landed shortly before 11 p.m. local time Saturday, or about 22 hours before the U.S.-France game is scheduled to begin.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for those guys for seeing it through, seeing their commitment through,” Green said. “And it’s on us to make sure that we do our parts and making sure that they are rewarded with what with what they ultimately came here for, which is to help us compete and win a gold medal.”

It has been an unprecedented period of preparation for the U.S. men in their quest to win a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal. The 12-player team was formally unveiled on June 28; since then, Bradley Beal (virus-related) and Kevin Love (injury-related) were removed from the roster, replaced by Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee.

The three NBA Finals players have been gone, and U.S. wing Zach LaVine missed the team’s flight to Tokyo on Monday because he was in the health and safety protocols related to the coronavirus. After a number of negative test results was cleared to fly over separately and rejoined the team in time for opening ceremony and Saturday’s practice.

Like Green, LaVine said he believes the decision by the NBA Finals trio to come to Tokyo barely a few days after the series and long postseason run ended only speaks to their level commitment.

“I think they’ll be ready to go, and we’ll see what happens,” LaVine said. “But as for the team, I think we have to be ready for everything. If they’re not ready to go, then we have to go out there and perform still.”

The U.S. wasn’t the only team pulling off a last-second roster maneuver. Spain, which ruled Juancho Hernangomez of the Minnesota Timberwolves out of the Olympics earlier this month because of a dislocated shoulder — only to then put him on the Tokyo roster because it felt he was healing well ahead of schedule — announced that he is not playing after all.

Jorge Garbajosa, the president of Spain’s basketball federation, said the Timberwolves would not clear Hernangomez and forced the reigning World Cup champions to replace him. Spain said Xabi Lopez-Arostegui was on his way to Tokyo to take the roster spot.

KSL Olympics

A 2002 Winter Olympic sign sits outside Rice Eccles Stadium before the start of an college football...
EDDIE PELLS AP National Writer

Winter Olympics Focus On Climate Change, Rotating Hosts

To hear the world's Olympic leaders tell it, the bidding for future Winter Games has been jumbled by internal disputes.
2 months ago
Eddie Pells, AP

Salt Lake City Winter Olympics Bid More Likely For 2034

Recent meetings with the IOC have led U.S. officials to believe all signs point toward Salt Lake City bidding for the 2034 Winter Olympics.
8 months ago
Larry Lage, AP

Winter Olympics May Not Include Nordic Combined For 1st Time

The IOC is due to make a decision later this month about whether to allow women to compete in Nordic combined at the 2026 Games.
8 months ago
Stephen Wade, AP

Chinese Olympian Eileen Gu Working For Salt Lake Games Bid

Eileen Gu, who won two gold medals for China at the Beijing Olympics, has signed on to work for Salt Lake City's bid for the Winter Olympics.
8 months ago
Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold - Norway...
Associated Press

Russian Olympic Body Challenges Ban From Winter Sports Event

The Russian Olympic Committee has made an urgent appeal to overturn a ban on its athletes competing at a European winter sports festival in Finland.
11 months ago
Alex Cabrero, KSL TV

2008, 2022 Olympic Games In Beijing See Many Differences

KSL's Alex Cabrero was one of the few NBC affiliate reporters who traveled to China for the 2022 Winter Olympics. He was also there for KSL, reporting on the 2008 Summer Olympics, and says the lasting legacy of 2022 will be very different.
12 months ago

Sponsored Articles

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.
KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.
Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.
ksl sports logos...
KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.
Iron Maiden tour...
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden returns to Utah in 2022 with The Legacy of the Beast tour.
Trio Of NBA Finals Players Finally Arrives At Tokyo Olympics