AP Photo/John Locher
USA Basketball announced Wednesday that
Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine has cleared COVID-19 health and
safety protocols. He’ll arrive in Tokyo on Thursday ahead of the Summer Olympics.
Team USA men’s basketball opens play at
the Games on Sunday against France.
LaVine joined the Americans’ starting
lineup for their last two exhibition games after the Washington
Wizards’ Bradley Beal entered COVID-19 protocols and was removed from
the Olympics roster. The Bulls star tallied 28 total points in wins
over Argentina and Spain.
The 26-year-old Washington native
averaged 27.4 points, which ranked seventh in the NBA, along with 5.0
rebounds, 4.9 assists and 3.4 threes across 58 games during the
2020-21 season. He shot 50.7 percent from the field, including 41.9
percent from three-point range.
Despite LaVine’s individual success,
the Bulls haven’t qualified for the playoffs since he arrived from
the Minnesota Timberwolves in a June 2017 trade.
The UCLA product told Jamal Collier of
the Chicago Tribune he wanted to bring a “winning mentality” back from the Olympics to Chicago.
“These are guys that have been around
winning,” LaVine said. “This will probably be the best team that
I’ll be around, so try and compete for gold, pick up little tricks
and just that mentality of how they approach practice, pregame,
things like that, talks in the locker room. All that stuff I’m trying
to bring back and add some little extra ammo for my own well-being.”
Team USA is the three-time defending
gold medal champion in men’s basketball at the Games, but losses to
Nigeria and Australia in exhibitions leading up to the tournament raised questions about whether
the U.S. could face stiffer competition as it attempts to four-peat.
LaVine should play a prominent role
for the Americans, especially at the outset. He figures to share
playing time with the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker at shooting guard,
but Booker may not be used extensively right out of the gate since he just finished the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.
The U.S. will play France, Iran and the
Czech Republic in Group A play, which runs through July 31. The
knockout stages begin Aug. 3.