7/19 AFTERNOON UPDATE: USA Basketball announced Zach LaVine is in health and safety protocols and won’t fly with Team USA to Tokyo. They’re hoping he can join them later in the week. LaVine missed time during the NBA season with COVID-19. Jerami Grant was recently placed in health and safety protocols but was cleared to return against Spain. Original Monday morning story on LaVine’s performance vs. Spain and a look ahead to the Olympics is below.
It was an eventful exhibition slate for Zach LaVine and Team USA ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. They lost their first two games to Nigeria and Australia and then dealt with several roster issues, with Bradley Beal and Kevin Love ultimately getting replaced by Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee. The rematch against Australia was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
However, the vibes are a bit better now as Team USA heads to Tokyo. After struggling in the first half, LaVine and his fellow Americans smashed another gold-medal contender in Spain in the second half to earn an 83-76 victory on Sunday. LaVine was quiet in the first half due to foul trouble, only to go off in the second half with a few clutch 3s and two more monster dunks.
LaVine — who started again with Beal now off the roster — finished with 13 points, two rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes. He shot 5-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point range. And those aforementioned dunks? Enjoy:
LaVine finished third on Team USA in scoring during the exhibitions with 43 points total over the four games, behind only Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant. Even with Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday set to show up after the NBA Finals, LaVine should be in line to play a bit more now that Beal is gone While Zach had his issues defensively, it was nice to see him fighting out there, especially when trying to go up against bigger players in the post. He got beat a few times, but he competed and brought energy.
LaVine and Team USA will start Olympic play against France on Sunday. They’re joined in Group A by Iran and the Czech Republic. Tomas Satoransky is the only other Bull who will be participating in the Olympics as a star for the Czechs. Sato hit a game-winner to beat Canada in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament Semifinals, and then the Czech Republic smashed Greece to qualify for Tokyo.
After the Olympic opener against France, Team USA will play Iran on July 28 and the Czech Republic on July 31. The Olympic Quarterfinals begin on Aug. 2. The Americans will be looking for their fourth straight gold medal. Despite a rocky start to their exhibition slate, Team USA should still win gold, but it won’t be a cakewalk. Let’s hope LaVine helps them make it happen.
Also, in case you missed it, LaVine did an excellent interview with Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago and talked about his Team USA experience, his contract situation, Patrick Williams and much more Bulls stuff. It’s definitely worth a read (or listen on the podcast).