Team USA expected to be ready for Olympic camp

Team USA expected to be ready for Olympic camp
OLYMPIC COACH. Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr speaks in New York, Feb. 29, 2024. / AP

Kawhi Leonard, Tyrese Haliburton and Joel Embiid are all good to go for the start of USA Basketball’s men’s national team training camp in Las Vegas next week, the first step toward what the Americans hope is a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

Leonard missed 12 of the Los Angeles Clippers’ final 14 games this past season with right knee inflammation. Haliburton was hampered at the end of the Indiana Pacers’ playoff run by issues with his left hamstring. And Embiid was dealing with left knee issues throughout his season with the Philadelphia 76ers.

“We expect everybody to be good to go,” US coach Steve Kerr said Thursday, June 27, 2024. “We’ve been in touch with everyone, not just those three guys. ... We’ve been in communication constantly, so we expect all 12 guys to be ready to roll.”

Leonard may have been the biggest question mark. Haliburton said when the Pacers’ season ended that he thought he’d have enough time to get ready for the Olympic run, and Embiid was at the NBA Finals about two weeks ago and proclaimed himself ready for what will be his first Olympic experience.

But Leonard’s status was a mystery. USA Basketball has been checking on Leonard, who has been working out for the past couple weeks, and likes where he’s currently at.

“We will continue to stay in touch with the whole group as we head into Vegas next week,” Kerr said.

It’s a major sigh of relief for the Americans, who will go to the Paris Games as the favorite and the top-ranked men’s team in the world — though nobody expects these Olympics will be a cakewalk. France, featuring Victor Wembanyama, has the edge of being at home and is a team with tons of belief that it can beat the Americans.

“I can’t wait to face them, it will be a very interesting matchup,” Wembanyama said at a news conference in Paris on Thursday. “As a basketball player, it’s also a dream to play against Team USA and even against all those players, all those legends.”

Serbia should be a serious medal contender behind NBA MVP Nikola Jokic. Germany won the World Cup last year and has basically the same team this summer. Canada has its best shot at an Olympic medal since winning silver in 1936.

“We’re well aware of the challenge we’re facing,” Kerr said. “The world of basketball has gotten so much better, so much stronger. We know how good these teams are and we know we’re going to have to be at our best. So, couldn’t be more excited.”

The US still hasn’t had to make any changes to the roster since it was originally announced in April, though there are contingency plans in place at every position. The original 12 names remain unchanged: Leonard, Haliburton, Embiid, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Anthony Edwards, Jrue Holiday, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, Bam Adebayo and Anthony Davis.

“Winning is the peak of the sport,” Haliburton said. “And winning a gold medal is right at the top of it. ... How could you not want to do this?”

The group has seven players with Olympic gold medals; Durant has three, James has two, while Adebayo, Booker, Holiday, Tatum and Booker each have one. There is a still a chance the roster could change, if necessary. The roster was in flux before the Tokyo Games three years ago until just before the start of competition.

“Every roster spot is important,” Kerr said. “You just never know how these things are going to play out.”

The Americans play their first exhibition against Canada on July 10, then have games in Abu Dhabi and London before the Paris Games start. The US opens Olympic play July 28 against Serbia and will also face South Sudan and the winner of next month’s qualifier in Puerto Rico — either Mexico, Lithuania, Ivory Coast, Italy, Bahrain or Puerto Rico — in its other group games. / AP

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