Tokyo Olympics: Zach LaVine off Team USA flight to Japan due to health protocols

By Sports Desk July 19, 2021

The USA men's basketball team flew to Tokyo on Monday without Zach LaVine, but the Chicago Bulls guard has not been ruled out for the Olympics. 

USA Basketball announced LaVine had been placed under health and safety protocols and would not travel with the team, but said it hoped he would be able to join them later this week. 

Winners of the last three Olympic gold medals, the USA made two roster changes late last week, adding JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson to replace Kevin Love and Bradley Beal. 

Love withdrew because he has not fully recovered from a calf injury, while Beal had to drop out due to health and safety protocols. 

Head coach Gregg Popovich will hold out hope that LaVine is indeed able to rejoin the team before the July 25 Group A opener against France in Saitama. 

The 26-year-old is coming off his best season, establishing career highs with 27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game and making the All-Star team for the first time.

He figures to play a key role for Team USA, if only because fellow backcourt mates Devin Booker and Jrue Holiday are still playing in the NBA Finals and may not be at full strength from the beginning of the Olympic tournament. 

LaVine started Sunday's exhibition win against Spain in Las Vegas and scored 13 points. 

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    Veteran swimmer Alia Atkinson shared a few words with her fans after her final race at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

    The Jamaican took to Instagram and wrote, “It’s funny. Looking back, the years went by so fast and before I realized it, I was looking at the end of it. A question that was asked after my swim today was: Would I give it all up for an Olympic medal? And honestly, I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything. All the ups and downs has made me who I am today (though at times it feels like there are more downs than ups), but it taught me how to get up and God taught me how to smile through it all."

     Atkinson, who made her Olympic debut in 2004, finished third in heat 3 of the Women’s 100m Breaststroke but only just missed out on a semifinal spot. She recorded a time of 1:07:70, which was the 17th fastest, meaning she finished just outside of the qualifiers, with only 16 places up for grabs. It was her only event of the Games.

     “My x5 Olympic journey ends here, but the Olympic medal is still waiting for some Jamaican girl/boy to claim it. I know you can, so keep pushing," she wrote.

     The 31-year-old has not won an Olympic medal for Jamaica, but one of her most notable performances was at the Olympic Games.  At London 2012, she finished fourth in the 100m Breaststroke. She beat Canada’s Tera van Beilen in a swim-off to make it to the final after the two were tied in the semifinal. She then went on to clock 1:06:93 in the final to become the second Jamaican to finish in the top four of an Olympic swimming event.

    She ended her Instagram post by writing, “To the future Jamaican Olympic swimming medalist: “I hope the road was/is less rocky for you. If so, then I have indeed succeeded. We have waited a long time for you, so thank you for staying true and carrying the fly high."

    Atkinson has indicated that she has not retired fully from swimming and this is just the end of her Olympic journey.

     

  • Tokyo Olympics: Lillard says Team USA shock loss will be received 'like the end of the world' Tokyo Olympics: Lillard says Team USA shock loss will be received 'like the end of the world'

    Damian Lillard predicted Team USA's stunning defeat to France at the Tokyo Olympics would be portrayed as "the end of the world" but vowed the gold medal was still a target.

    The Portland Trail Blazers star was one of a host of under-performing players in blue as Gregg Popovich's team were beaten 83-76 at the Saitama Super Arena.

    France's shock win meant the US team's 25-game winning streak in men's basketball at the Olympics came to an end, raising doubts about their ability to challenge for glory at these Games.

    Exhibition defeats to Australia and Nigeria ahead of the Olympics getting underway were red flags, but most expected the Americans to find match-winning form once the stakes were raised.

    "I think we have a history of dominance and, maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning," Lillard said.

    "It's not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start. So, I think that's why a lot of people make it seem like the end of the world.

    "But our job as professionals and this team, representing our country in these Olympics, we got to do what's necessary, and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish, and we got to make sure we keep that in mind."

     

    Evan Fournier of the Boston Celtics starred with 28 points for France.

    Fournier began the 2020-21 NBA season with the Orlando Magic and averaged 19.7 points per game, before that figure dropped to 13.0 for his outings with the Celtics following a trade in March.

    Here he served up a reminder of how he can perform, and the US opposition suffered.

    Lillard, who made just three of his 10 field-goal attempts, said: "You know who we see each night sometimes in the NBA, they are completely different when they play for their countries.

    "They got more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious. So we put ourselves in a dogfight, and they made plays to win it."

    Kevin Durant called it "a make-or-miss game".

    "And we didn't hit the shots that we were supposed to late in the game in the fourth quarter, but I think we will be better next game," Durant, who scored 10 points, added.

    There are Group A games to come for the Americans against the Czech Republic and Iran, and those could allow Durant, Lillard and co to find form ahead of the knock-out rounds.

    Team USA have won the last three gold medals at the Olympics, and Bam Adebayo, who scored 12 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds, pointed to French desire for a slice of such glory as being a telling factor on Sunday.

    "You can definitely tell they're tired of the USA winning," Adebayo said. "Everybody wants that feeling of getting that gold medal. And we can't rely on talent all the time to just bring us home."

  • Tokyo Olympics Recap: Popovich insists France loss should not come as a surprise Tokyo Olympics Recap: Popovich insists France loss should not come as a surprise

    United States men's basketball coach Gregg Popovich insists his side's defeat to France in their first outing at Tokyo 2020 should not be considered a surprise result.

    Team USA have won gold in the last three Games, but they saw a 25-game winning streak in the tournament come to an end on Sunday against an inspired France side.

    Les Blues, who also beat a much-fancied USA in the World Cup quarter-finals in 2019, are ranked seventh in the FIBA rankings but proved too strong for the world's top team with an 83-76 win at the Saitama Super Arena.

    Despite his side's long unbeaten run in the competition coming to an end, Popovich – taking charge at his first Games – was quick to put the loss into some perspective.

    "People shouldn't be surprised that we lost to the French team or the Australian team or the Spanish team or the Lithuanian team," he told reporters. 

    "It doesn't matter who it is – the gap in talent shrinks every year, as there are more and more great players all over the world. 

    "And you need to give the French team credit for playing well. They were more consistent than we were at both ends of the court. It's as simple as that."

     

    STARS ALIGN FOR HISTORY-MAKING ZOLOTIC

    Sunday was a positive day on the whole for Team USA – especially compared to Saturday, when they failed to win a medal on the opening day of a Games for the first time since Munich 1972 – as they picked up four gold, two silver and four bronze.

    That haul includes a maiden gold in the women's taekwondo thanks to teenager Anastasija Zolotic, who beat Tatiana Minina of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the final of the -57kg weight category event. 

    "My eight-year-old self was running around the schoolyard saying I was going to be Olympic champion but she could never have imagined what this moment is like," Zolotic said. 

    "It's unbelievable. It really hasn't sunk in yet. I can't believe it. I'm in a bit of shock. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it. It feels wonderful. I came here confident and ready to take the gold. The stars were aligned."

    Zolotic's win came on the back of two-time Olympic champion Jade Jones suffering a shock elimination to Refugee Olympic Team member Kimia Alizadeh in the last 16, denying the Team GB athlete a shot of winning a historic third gold.

     

    BILES BOUNCES BACK, CHUSOVITINA WAVES GOODBYE

    A lot of focus has been on Simone Biles heading into the Games, though she had a rare off day as the USA finished behind ROC in the women's gymnastics qualifying.

    Biles, who won four golds and a bronze in Rio, was penalised on both floor and vault but still scored a respectable 14.166 to book a spot in the final.

    While Biles still has time on her side, both in Tokyo and in the long term, the 2020 Games will be the last for Uzbekistan's Oksana Chusovitina, who bowed out on Sunday after a record-setting eighth appearance at the Olympics.

    Chusovitina, at the age of 46, just missed out on qualifying for the vault event and was given a standing ovation by the small number of people inside the arena.

    To put Chusovitina's remarkable run of appearances into perspective, she made her debut at the Games in 1992, some five years before Biles was born.

    "It was really nice. I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time," she said. "I didn't look at the results, but I feel very proud and happy. I'm saying goodbye to sports. It's kind of mixed feelings.

    "I'm alive, I'm happy, I'm here without any injuries, and I can stand on my own."

    KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

    Japanese pair Uta and Hifumi Abe made Olympic history as they became the first siblings to win gold medals on the same day of a Games in an individual sport, both enjoying success in judo on day two in Tokyo.

    Uta won the women’s 52kg competition, defeating France's Amandine Buchard. A closely contested bout went to a golden score, with Abe crucially claiming ippon to settle the final in her favour.

    The two-time world champion cried tears of joy in the aftermath, admitting: "I don't know, maybe it may not have been appropriate but I couldn't hold myself back."

    Older brother Hifumi made it a family double, overcoming Vazha Margvelashvili of Georgia to triumph in the men's 66kg final.

    "This has turned out to be the greatest day ever," he said. "I don't think we, as brother and sister, could shine any brighter on this stage known as the Tokyo Olympics. I'm so happy."

     

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