Five Lakers hang onto Olympic dreams after making initial Team USA roster for Tokyo

first_img Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions LOS ANGELES — This summer, the Lakers really could be America’s team.The preliminary 44-man roster of Team USA is a long way from the 12-man group that will travel to the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer, but there are five Lakers on that list. And even that was enough to get the locker room buzzing after a win over Phoenix on Monday night.The candidates ranged from the obvious – LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who have both won gold medals before – to role players Kyle Kuzma (whose injury prevented him from playing in the FIBA World Cup this past summer) and JaVale McGee.Veteran center Dwight Howard, who was one of the 2008 team’s sprightly youngsters when he last played in Beijing, said he wasn’t quite sure whether to believe it. Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers “When the Olympics come around, they make sure they get those guys in there if they want to play, so they’re just a lot of guys,” he said. “(Younger players are) for sure going to have their time.”Olympic dreams don’t have an age limit. Howard reminisced from his 2008 Redeem Team experience when he wore his medal around his neck for a long time after coming home. As the 34-year-old talked about the possibility of going back, some of that youthful enthusiasm bubbled back to the surface.“Just don’t take any moments for granted,” he said. “Being able to play in the Olympics is very special. It’s something that a lot of guys don’t get opportunities to do, especially in their careers. For me, this being my 16th season, to have an opportunity to play is just amazing.”center_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“For my agent to call me and say, ‘Hey, would you like to be on the Olympic team again?’” Howard said. “At first, I thought it was a dream.”Indeed, five Lakers in the Olympics is a bit far-fetched, particularly since a number of them play the same forward positions. The only other NBA team with five players in the mix is the Boston Celtics.For some of the Lakers’ candidates, it’s also been a long gap since they last played in the Olympics: James and Davis last played in London in 2012. Even the 26-year-old Davis joked when asked about playing in Tokyo this summer: “I don’t know, I’m getting old.”James was notably coy about the possibility of playing in his fourth Olympics. While he said all the way back in September “I would love to” play for Team USA again, and that he was disappointed with his country’s seventh-place finish in the FIBA World Cup, he also has a driving interest to stay healthy. With the Lakers potentially in line for a long postseason run, he seemed determined to keep his options open.“It’s always predicated on, one, my body, how my body is feeling at the end of the season,” he said. “I hope to make a long playoff run. And then where my mind is and then where my family’s head is. So, it’s a lot of factors, but my name is in the hat.” Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Others seemed more eager.McGee has twice been invited to Team USA mini-camps but missed the final cut. The 32-year-old 7-footer has been chasing gold for a unique reason: His mother, former USC and WNBA star Pam McGee won with Team USA in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.McGee said he’s grown since he last played for USA Basketball a decade ago. The international game, which is more receptive to big men who specialize in defense, calls for a more defined role player. Now that he’s structured that in his professional career, perhaps his international career could unfold the same way.“I think younger in my career, I didn’t really understand the importance of the Olympic invite, and I didn’t understand the role you have to play when you go to situations like that,” he said. “Because I’ve been invited before, but it was more when I was out there, I was more ‘I want to do this, I want to do that!’ When it really doesn’t matter if you score, it doesn’t matter if you do this or that, they just want you to play a role.”Of the five hopefuls, only Kuzma played for Spurs coach and Team USA coach Gregg Popovich this summer. The two have said they developed more respect for one another over the summer working together, and Popovich said it was disappointing that a foot injury prevented Kuzma from heading to China on the final roster.The initial roster is star-studded, of course, so there will be plenty of competition for spots, assuming some of Team USA’s biggest stars are more willing to play in an Olympic year rather than a FIBA year. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, James Harden, Steph Curry and Damian Lillard are some of the top luminaries on the list.As such, Kuzma played it conservative with his ambitions to make the roster.“It’s a blessing just to be a finalist,” he said. “Growing up, I always wanted to play for the Olympic team. That was always a goal of mine. Never really knew if it was gonna happen, or whatnot, but the opportunity to be on the team.”In fact, in some corners, there was some frustration that the roster skewed older rather than younger. While players such as Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo and Kuzma were invited back after some action last summer, next generation players such as NBA rookies Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were not included.Davis, who got his start in the 2012 London Games as a one-and-done out of Kentucky, said it’s a marker of just how much some veterans want to play in the Olympics.Related Articles Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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