The USA men’s basketball team was dealt another blow just before the group traveled to Tokyo for the Olympic Games. Chicago Bulls star guard Zach LaVine entered health and safety protocols and did not leave with the rest of the team on Monday.
According to NBA insider Shams Charania, there’s optimism that LaVine will be able to join his American teammates at some point during the Tokyo Olympics. However, his major international debut will have to be put on hold.
LaVine clearly seemed excited earlier on Monday when he posted an Instagram picture of him playing in Sunday’s final exhibition game against Spain. Alongside the post, he wrote the caption “Off to Tokyo.”
The Bulls star guard returned to the Instagram picture to give his two-word reaction to entering health and safety protocols. The 26-year-old wrote “or not” after he was given the disappointing news, per Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald.
— Mike McGraw (@McGrawDHSports) July 19, 2021
Losing LaVine is just the latest blow to Team USA and head coach Gregg Popovich. Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal was forced to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics after he was placed in health and safety protocols last week. Kevin Love also announced that he’d be withdrawing from the team, citing a lingering right calf injury.
JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson filled in for the two players that dropped out, but LaVine entered protocols too late to find another replacement. With Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker still playing in the NBA Finals, Team USA might only have eight eligible players to begin the Tokyo Olympics.
The United States has won the last three gold medals at the Olympics, but with a depleted and exhausted roster, combined with shaky play in the exhibition games, doubt has been cast on the team’s chances to walk away on top later this summer.
Team USA will begin its slate at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, July 25 against France.