Embiid makes Team USA dream a reality
If Team USA can avoid injuries, we already have a clear idea of what will comprise the main core of an historic team at the next Games in Paris Games.
The Paris Olympic Games get underway on Friday 26 July 2024, so there’s still time. Basketball, in fact, starts the following day, on Saturday the 27th. And the men’s final will be one of the highlights of the last day, 11 August. Many things will happen in the meantime, including an entire NBA season. So it’s hard to know for sure which players will be in Paris. And even more so with Team USA, a volatile team by definition and that, in any case, will depend on what happens in terms of injuries, the demand for the playoffs for the title... But what we do know, now, things have changed and that Team USA is very serious and will be going for gold.
The fiasco of the recent FIBA World Cup, in which the United States finished in fourth position which means the US have gone two editions without a medal for the first time since the 1960s, set alarm bells ringing for a team that has seen how it shapes up against the rest of the world’s top sides when it sends a third-string group to the event like those that competed in 2019 and 2023. The Olympic Games have always been something else - there, Team USA usually sends its strongest teams and has won four gold medals since the skid (bronze) in Athens 2004. But in the last two editions, 2016 and 2020, the best twelve did not attend either. That’s going to change now.
Embiid on board
This time, the United States is going to bring a team which could mark an era. From the Dream Team of Barcelona 92, to the Reedem Team of Beijing 2008 and London 2012… and from there to a version in 2024 that may be one of the most legendary of the entire story. That’s what it points to after, as soon as the World Cup disappointment was confirmed, it was announced that LeBron James was willing to return (for the first time since 2012) and that he had already spoken with Stephen Curry ( another habitual absence since 2014), Kevin Durant and other megastars who had already said yes. The last big move, as we know, has been Joel Embiid’s decision, received with controversy outside the United States. The Cameroonian center could choose to play for his native country, with France or with the United States, where he has lived since he was 16 (he is 29) and where his son was born. He chose Team USA.
On NBA media day earlier this week, the Olympics was a recurring issue among the big stars. And many assured that they would be in Paris if they were counted on. These are the players who are committed to Team USA or who would commit if the opportunity arises for the next Games: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Edwards, Jaylen Brown, Zion Williamson, Donovan Mitchell, Bradley Beal, Julius Randle, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.
This time, it’s is a truly impressive list. The best of the best for a team that, if there are no injuries or problems that prevent it, has eight players who seem safe: Curry, Booker, LeBron, Durant, Tatum, Davis, Adebayo and Embiid. So this could be, quite realistically, the team of twelve that would compete in the next Games. A new Dream Team. Or Reedem Team, as you prefer…
STEPHEN CURRY. At 35 years old, it is his great opportunity to add Olympic gold to his historic resume. With Team USA he was world champion twice, in 2010 and 2014, when he was still rising to become the megastar of the NBA. Now, the best shooter in history wants to settle a pending score and his place is assured once he has given the green light.
DAMIAN LILLARD. He is 33 years old and has won Olympic gold, in the last Games. But he couldn’t show his best version there due to an abdominal injury that forced him to play with pain and that, in fact, hindered him the following season. As soon as he was transferred to the Bucks, he assured that he would welcome being at Paris 2024 but that he was not sure if he would be called up and what would happen: a long NBA season, the needs of his family... His presence is not guaranteed but it is an obvious choice for the point guard position.
DEVIN BOOKER. A 26-year-old Olympic champion in Tokyo who is, surely, the best shooting guard in the NBA right now. The killer of Phoenix Suns is from the first moment in this version of the super team for Paris, and there he will play with the United States unless injured.
LEBRON JAMES. The big surprise, the big news. Nobody had LeBron in the national team anymore, more than a decade later and he was almost 39 years old. But he picked up the phone and began the recruiting process to return world basketball hegemony to Team USA. He will seek his fourth Olympic medal in Paris: he has two golds (2008 and 2012) and a bronze (2004).
JAYSON TATUM. From Booker's generation (25 years old) and, like him, Olympic champion in Tokyo and one of the new stars in the NBA. The Celtics forward, a superlative player, also wants to be on this team and, if his physique does not prevent it, he has a guaranteed place. Question of talent.
KEVIN DURANT. Already a veteran (35 years old), one of the best scorers in history has been more or less a fixture whenever he has been able to represent the United States. He has three Olympic golds (2012, 2016, 2020) and also won the 2010 World Cup. He is the hard core of this call together with LeBron and Curry.
ANTHONY DAVIS Injuries have also greatly impacted his career. If the inside game has been a recurring problem for the United States, it seems clear that this time it will not be the case with his commitment added to those of Embiid and Adebayo.
BAM ADEBAYO. At 26, he’s in his prime and was the main center when the US won gold in Tokyo. From Miami they have leaked that Adebayo has his place guaranteed for Paris. He was among the options for the last World Cup until the last minute, but he fell due to the demands of a season in which the Heat reached the NBA Finals.
JOEL EMBIID. At 29 years old, Embiid (current NBA MVP) has chosen the United States ahead of France and Cameroon. And, despite the criticism received, that is his (respectable) decision and that is what he is going to do: play safely with the United States, where he is obviously guaranteed a place. It is the definitive cherry on top of this new pharaonic project of the American Federation.
That’s nine players who will be, in principle, under the command of a coaching staff that can repeat its exceptional lineup from the last World Cup: Steve Kerr, Erik Spoelstra and Tyronn Lue. There are therefore three places left, in principle for the positions of point guard, shooting guard and forward because the interior game is rounded with Embiid, Adebayo, Davis and the presence of Durant and Tatum as theoretical power forwards, something that fits perfectly in the FIBA style also for others like LeBron James.
As options for the third base position, Jrue Holiday and Kyrie Irving appear. Two Olympic champions (2020 and 2016, respectively) with very different profiles: Kyrie (31 years old) is a player with a bad head but extraordinary talent, one of the most destructive and aesthetic scorers in history. Jrue (33) is an exceptional defender and team player, capable of doing all the dirty work required of him to give balance to the team.
Kawhi Leonard (32 years old), whose career has been marked by injuries and his complex character (but two-time MVP of the Finals, of course) has not played with Team USA and has surprised by assuring that he would like to do it in Paris. Everything will depend on his physique, of course, always a tricky issue. But if it’s a matter of talent, he would be a sure asset as a small forward/power forward. For a position that would remain to be filled, as a shooting guard/forward, the best option could be Jimmy Butler, the all-purpose warrior of the Miami Heat (34 years old) who was on the Rio champion team. Although other excellent options would be Paul George or Anthony Edwards.
We are looking at a possible quintet formed by Curry, Booker, LeBron, Durant and Embiid. Something absolutely incredible. On the waiting list, with many of them expressing their desire to be in the Games, would remain: Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, Anthony Edwards, Paul George, Jaylen Brown, Draymond Green, Khris Middleton, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine , Zion Williamson, Mikal Bridges, Julius Randle…
So yes: there is a lot left, it is obvious, but it seems clear that Team USA is going to punch the table, to lay the foundations to recover the throne of world basketball (in its favorite showcase, the Games) and to leave us one of those dream teams that we will always remember.
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