France are expecting the United States to come out firing when the men's basketball competition at the Tokyo Olympics begins.

Team USA are favourites to win a fourth consecutive gold at the Games despite losing two exhibition games in a mixed build-up period to the tournament.

They open their Group A campaign against France in Saitama on Sunday.

France defeated the Americans in the 2019 World Cup quarter-finals and head coach Vincent Collet expects that to be on the minds of their opponents.

He said: "We also know that they want to beat us because two years ago we did it in China - so we know what to expect."

Collet is aware that France's Olympics fate is unlikely to be determined by their group game with the USA, even if it is an occasion to savour.

Asked if it was an advantage to play USA first, he said: "I don't know. It's always a very tough game. It's a special game, but for us it’s just the beginning of the competition.

"I would hope that we play a good game but whatever happens we will need to beat the Czech Republic in the second one, which is probably even more important.

"The preparation has been up and down. We didn't have a couple of players until last week so it has hurt the preparation a little bit."

Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier are two of the five NBA players in the 12-man France roster.

Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Draymond Green and Devin Booker are among the leading names playing for the USA.

Matthew Dellavedova is clear Australia have come to Tokyo with the objective of dethroning the United States and claiming the Olympic gold medal in basketball.

Winners of the last three golds, the USA are strong favourites to make it four in a row, though Australia and Spain are among the teams who should provide competition.

Team USA had a far-from-ideal Olympics preparation, losing to Australia in an exhibition game as well as suffering a defeat to Nigeria, while they have also lost some key players to withdrawals.

Kevin Durant said this week the main rivals of USA will go into the Games confident of producing an upset and that their star-studded roster has had "a slap in the face".

While Dellavedova is aware of the scale of the task to beat USA in competitive action, he is clear about the target Australia have set.

Australia lost to Spain in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals and also fell at the last-four stage at Rio 2016, so the former NBA champion wants to take the last steps to glory.

"The bar has been set since before Rio 2016 and the goal has not changed," former Cleveland Cavaliers man Dellavedova said.

"We know we have come up short in Rio and in China [at the World Cup] but the goal is the same.

"We want the gold medal, and we know how tough it is going to be.

"I thought we had a good week [of exhibition games] but you don't really know until you play anyone else. It's still early.

"There's a lot of things we've got to get better at, but incorporating the new guys in, it's been a lot of fun. They've fitted right in, brought a lot of energy and it's been good."

Head coach Nick Kay also goes into the Olympics full of ambition.

He said: "We're here to win. We want to win a gold. It's something that's been eluding us for a long time now and we want to do it, not just for our group but all the Boomers and Australian players that have been there before.

"We have got to stick together, that's our big thing right now. We have got to play hard each possession and do all those little things that make our Boomer culture special."

Nigeria, who also beat USA in a warm-up game, are Australia's first opponents on Sunday.

"I think they've shown a lot," Dellavedova said about Nigeria.

"They've got a lot of great players. Obviously they beat USA earlier in the week. Athletic, aggressive on defence, I think they made 20 or more threes against the US.

"They were really shooting the ball and moving it. It’s going to be tough, and we're going to have to be ready right from the start of the game."

Kevin Durant believes rivals of the United States will go into the Tokyo Olympics confident of producing an upset.

Winners of the last three Olympic gold medals, the USA are strong favourites to make it four in a row, with Australia and Spain seen as their closest challengers.

But Team USA have had a far-from-ideal Olympics preparation, defeated by Nigeria and Australia in exhibition games, though they did beat Spain in their final warm-up contest in Las Vegas.

They have lost significant players including having to make two late roster changes, adding JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson to replace Kevin Love and Bradley Beal. 

Love withdrew with a calf injury, while Beal had to drop out due to health and safety protocols. 

USA face France in Saitama for their Group A opener on July 25 and Durant feels the favourites must be on guard.

"All of them [Olympic tournaments] are difficult," he said. "Every team wants to beat us, everybody wants to see us lose, so every game has a little bit more pressure to it. 

"A lot of guys dropped out, a lot of circumstances, and I'm sure other teams are seeing us lose and feel confident coming into the tournament.

"But we understand what we're getting ourselves into and we're looking forward to the challenge."

Durant feels like the team is starting to come together after those exhibition defeats.

The Brooklyn Nets forward added: "I feel like we're understanding what coach wants from us on both ends of the floor.

"Guys are getting more comfortable with each other and their roles on the team, and that's only going to bode well for us as we start to play real games. 

"So it was good to kind of get a punch in the mouth early on to remind us that it's not gonna be a cakewalk. 

"And so many people are used to Team USA coming in and blowing everybody out, so it was good for us to see that. Now, hopefully, those are the last losses."

After the conclusion of the NBA Finals, head coach Gregg Popovich is poised to welcome Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to the set-up.

He is not sure how quickly the trio will adapt to new surroundings but is glad to have them en route.

"Well, there's not a whole lot you can do when they get here the day before," said Popovich.

"It's pretty obvious that they won't know everything that’s been going on, but luckily it's basketball. We'll try to keep it simple and just take care of what we think we can take care of.

"The good thing is they'll be in shape. I don't know how the plane's gonna affect them, that's not an easy flight. 

"It is true that they won't be as ready to play in the sense of execution that we might want, but that's understandable

"We are not sure [how we will incorporate them]. Something like that is pretty unique, there's no paradigm or game plan or rulebook.

"So it's something we'll discuss the rest of the week and just do what we think is best - it'll be an interesting situation for sure."

Popovich was asked if the players will have any film or play packages to review on the flight to Tokyo.

"They're gonna sleep," he replied.

In a further boost to the roster, USA guard Zach LaVine has cleared health and safety protocols so he will also travel to Tokyo and join up with the team.

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. 

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love has withdrawn from Team USA's roster for the Tokyo Olympics with two replacements confirmed.

Love joins Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who has entered health and safety protocols, in dropping out of USA's original 12-man roster.

USA Basketball (USAB) announced on Friday that Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee and San Antonio Spurs small forward Keldon Johnson have replaced the duo.

USAB said Love's withdrawal was due to "his ongoing injury recovery", having been returning from a right calf injury during the camp in Las Vegas where he did participate in exhibition games.

"I am incredibly disappointed to not be heading to Tokyo with Team USA," Love said in a statement released by Schwartz.

"But you need to be at absolute peak performance to compete at the Olympic level and I am just not there yet."

McGee averaged 7.3 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game, shooting at 51.1 per cent from the field in the 2020-21 NBA season for the Nuggets.

Johnson, 21, averaged 12.8 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game and 1.8 assists per game in the 2002-21 season for the Spurs.

Team USA are due to fly out for Tokyo on Monday, with their Olympics opener against France on July 25.

The United States are always favourites at the Olympic Games – and rightly so. In 18 entries to the men's basketball event, Team USA have collected 18 medals, 15 of them gold.

But those three defeats serve as a warning for Gregg Popovich's side.

And any remaining complacency heading to Tokyo 2020 – in pursuit of a fourth straight title – should have been shifted by their initial pre-tournament exhibitions.

The United States lost to Nigeria last Saturday and then to Australia two days later, their third and fourth defeats in exhibitions since first fielding NBA players with the formation of the 'Dream Team' in 1992.

"It was better," as Popovich said, in Tuesday's win over Argentina – "bit by bit, every day, I hope," the coach added – but the pressure is still on, as consistent results must follow when the real action begins.

 

TOUGH START FOR TEAM USA SUPERSTARS

Of course, Team USA have never failed to advance from the preliminary round and that spotless record is highly unlikely to change this year. A kind draw has thrown up only one true test, but it comes first up: against France.

Indeed, Les Bleus dealt the United States their humiliating quarter-final exit at the FIBA Basketball World Cup two years ago.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year – put up a game-high 16 rebounds in that France victory and his size is a real problem for familiar opponents.

Gobert led the league with 2.7 blocks and 10.1 defensive rebounds per game in 2020-21, snaring 33.5 per cent of defensive boards while on the floor for the third-best mark in the NBA.

Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green might be versatile but, as the two preferred American options at the five, finding joy in the middle seems unlikely, while Team USA might also struggle to stop 7ft 1in Gobert on defense. His 67.5 per cent shooting was another benchmark.

However, the talent elsewhere in the Team USA lineup should ensure they have enough to win most matchups.

Kevin Durant shot 52.3 per cent from the midrange and 45.0 per cent from beyond the arc in the regular season; only two players made more threes than Damian Lillard (275), who then broke Klay Thompson's record with 12 makes from deep in a single playoff game against the Denver Nuggets.

The opener could either see Durant and Co lay down a marker for the rest of the tournament or provide other contenders with a blueprint for beating the United States.

 

BOOMERS BANG UP FOR MEDAL PURSUIT

Australia are far from the biggest team at the Games, but they have already shown the joy that can be found in the paint against Team USA, scoring 44 points from inside the key in their exhibition win.

The Boomers' effective, well-executed gameplan was all the more impressive given the unsettled nature of their team.

They have changed coach three times since the World Cup, and star name Ben Simmons is absent – working to "develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas", Brian Goorjian said, after averaging an awful 9.9 points per game in the playoff series defeat to the Atlanta Hawks.

But Philadelphia 76ers team-mate Matisse Thybulle is still on hand to provide defensive energy, having led the NBA in steal percentage (3.9), while Patty Mills remains more reliable at international level than for Popovich's San Antonio Spurs.

Four times beaten in the bronze medal game, Australia will expect to finally secure some hardware, yet Group B also contains a dark horse in the form of Nigeria, who followed up their own victory against the United States by dominating Argentina.

Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent had 21 points against the country of his birth, a total he has only once topped in his NBA career to date.

Nigeria have chemistry, talent and, in Golden State Warriors associate head coach Mike Brown, coaching experience. They have also played so far like they have a point to prove.

 

DONCIC DRAWN INTO GROUP OF DEATH

Second and third pool games against Iran and the Czech Republic respectively should see that there is no jeopardy for the United States early on, but Group C shows how tough this tournament can be.

There will be a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final between Spain and Argentina, while hosts Japan will hope to make some noise. Then there is Slovenia, led of course by Luka Doncic.

One of the most exciting young talents in the world, Doncic has already shown himself capable of dragging a team to against-the-odds victories single-handedly.

The 22-year-old, whose 36.0 per cent usage rate led the NBA this year, was unsurprisingly named the MVP at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Kaunas just three weeks after forcing the Los Angeles Clippers to go to a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs.

Doncic has averaged 33.5 points across his 13 career postseason games – all of which have come against the Clippers. No player in NBA history has played 13 playoff games or more and averaged more, with Michael Jordan second on 33.4.

But Doncic has lost both of those series to date and is now faced with some hugely experienced players at this level. Argentina's Luis Scola and Spain's Pau Gasol – who moved to Barcelona specifically to prepare for the Games – are both in their 40s.

Should Doncic guide his country into the knockout stage, though, Team USA would undoubtedly be wary of taking on the two-time All-NBA First Team selection.

USA Basketball (USAB) has confirmed that Saturday's exhibition game between the United States and Australia has been cancelled due to growing COVID-19 fears.

The two sides were due to meet for the second time this week as part of their preparations for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

The cancellation comes after USAB confirmed on Thursday that two players had entered health and safety protocols.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal had been ruled out of the Olympics after entering protocols, while Jerami Grant was also placed under protocols, as a precautionary measure.

Team USA are still scheduled to play Spain in Las Vegas on Sunday in their final preparation game before flying for Tokyo on Monday.

USA's opening game at the Tokyo Olympics is on July 25 against France, while Australia commence their Games campaign on the same day against Nigeria.

Australia had shocked USA 91-83 on Tuesday, following their upset defeat to Nigeria on Monday.

The United States started their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Haiti on Sunday.

Sam Vines' first international goal proved to be enough for the USA at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City.

The eighth-minute header helped the USA make a winning start in Group B, in which they sit behind Canada, who crushed Martinique 4-1 earlier on Sunday.

The USA are six-time Gold Cup champions, including winning two of the past four editions – in 2013 and 2017.

They went close to an opener in just the sixth minute, but Walker Zimmerman's volley from a corner hit the crossbar.

However, they opened the scoring just three minutes later as Vines headed in powerfully from close range after Gyasi Zardes' pass from inside the area.

The USA continued to threaten and went close to doubling their lead in the 66th minute, but Nicholas Gioacchini hit the post with a side-footed effort.

Gregg Berhalter's side are next in action on Thursday, when they take on Martinique.

LeBron James' days of representing his country in the Olympics likely are finished. 

Jerry Colangelo, long-time USA Basketball managing director, told ESPN he does not expect the Los Angeles Lakers star to compete in the Games again. 

James opted out of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics after skipping Rio five years ago. 

He will be 39-years-old for the next Summer Games in Paris, and Colangelo said he does not expect the NBA legend to return to international duty. 

"You know, Father Time takes its toll," Colangelo told ESPN on Wednesday. "If you're a human being, your body is built to go so long depending on what your sport is, and then it's a downhill situation.

"LeBron made choices these last couple of Olympics not to participate because he's got a lot of things going on in his life.

"So he put in his time, he made a contribution that is appreciated, but I think his time is over."

James previously helped Team USA to gold medals in the London and Beijing Olympics and bronze in Athens. 

With James and numerous other NBA stars skipping the Games this summer, head coach Gregg Popovich's 12-player squad for Tokyo will feature only three returning Olympians: Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Kevin Love. 

 

James Harden will not compete for the United States at the Olympic Games in Tokyo as he recovers from a hamstring injury, according to USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

Harden reportedly committed to playing for Team USA at next month's Tokyo Games after the Brooklyn Nets lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

But Colangelo told ESPN on Wednesday that Harden – who endured an injury-hit 2020-21 campaign – has withdrawn, instead focusing on his recovery over the offseason.

A hamstring injury limited Harden to 36 regular-season games for the Nets following his blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets, before he played nine times in the playoffs, scoring an underwhelming 20.2 points per game.

Harden went to London in 2012 after his final season as a bench scorer for the Oklahoma City Thunder but not to Brazil four years later having established himself in Houston.

Defending champions Team USA are yet to announce their roster for the Olympics, but Gregg Popovich's team is currently headlined by Nets superstar Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal and the Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum.

Team USA are scheduled to open their gold medal bid against France on July 25 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Life is about relationships, and we've got relationships with all these players over the years," Colangelo told ESPN. "It's been a process, and it hasn't been easy."

Colangelo added: "Versatility and athleticism are trademarks of this group.

"Our staff feels this will be a very competitive group and we'll have shooting that we've been lacking. We're going to go into camp feeling confident we're going to perform well."

Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer have been appointed as vice-captains by Team Europe skipper Padraig Harrington for the Ryder Cup.

Both players bring a wealth experience to Harrington's backroom team for the rescheduled clash against the United States, which will take place at Whistling Straits in September – 12 months on from the original date that was scuppered by the coronavirus pandemic.

McDowell was also part of the set-up at Le Golf National in 2018, where Europe – led by Thomas Bjorn – hammered their American counterparts 17.5-10.5.

The Northern Irishman has featured four times as a player (2008, 2010, 2012, 2014), accumulating nine points from 15 matches – including claiming the winning point at Celtic Manor in 2010.

"I decided on Graeme as a vice-captain a long time ago. He was vice-captain in 2018 with me and I liked what he brought to the team room," Harrington said of the 2010 U.S. Open champion.

"He's quite an authority, confident in what he's doing and saying and knows the scene. The only reason he would not have been a vice-captain was if he was going to be a player.

"Graeme is a strong influence and the players look up to him. When he speaks, people listen, but he doesn't speak unless he's got something to say. I definitely saw that when he was vice-captain previously – players pay attention and follow him."

 

Kaymer too brings plenty of Ryder Cup experience to the table. The German has won 6.5 points from four appearances at the biennial tournament (2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016).

Undoubtedly his most famous contribution came when he sank the winning putt in 2012 to complete the "Miracle of Medinah", where Europe overturned a 10-6 deficit on the final day to retain the trophy.

Whistling Straits is also the scene of Kaymer's 2010 US PGA Championship triumph, which led to his debut in the Ryder Cup. 

"Martin is somebody I wanted as a vice-captain because he has a great personality and brings a calmness, a European element, and a lot of confidence with him," Harrington said of Kaymer, who also won the 2014 U.S. Open. 

"The fact that he won around Whistling Straits also brings that level of authority and assurance that you need.

"Martin will also bring a nice emotion to the team, which is very important. He's somebody who will help with the atmosphere, put an arm around a player or two and bring that level of authority and belief that we may need during the week."

 

James Harden has followed Brooklyn Nets team-mate Kevin Durant in committing to play for Team USA at the Tokyo Games, according to reports.

The United States team is taking shape as they prepare to defend their gold medal at the delayed 2021 Olympics.

Reports at the weekend detailed the expectation Durant would join the team after the Nets exited the NBA playoffs.

Durant was on the victorious USA teams in 2012 and 2016 and this year averaged 26.9 points per game in the regular season and 34.3 in the postseason – the 25th-best mark of all time.

The 2014 MVP will not be the only Brooklyn player on the Olympic team, according to The Athletic.

A hamstring injury limited Harden to 36 regular season games for the Nets following his trade from the Houston Rockets, before he played nine times in the playoffs, scoring an underwhelming 20.2 points per game.

Harden went to London in 2012 after his final season as a bench scorer for the Oklahoma City Thunder but not to Brazil four years later having established himself in Houston.

 

Golden State Warriors great Stephen Curry was involved on neither occasion – although he won the World Cup in 2010 and 2014 – and will not make his Olympic bow this year either, the report added.

Curry almost single-handedly carried the undermanned Warriors to the brink of the playoffs this year, taking the NBA scoring title with 32.0 points per game.

Donovan Mitchell, who struggled with an injury as the Utah Jazz lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, has also declined an invite, ESPN revealed.

Bam Adebayo, the Miami Heat center, will join the 12-man roster, though, aiming to bounce back from a playoff sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks in which he scored just nine points on four-of-15 shooting in Game 1.

A youthful United States side had no trouble with Costa Rica on Wednesday, rolling to a 4-0 friendly victory at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah. 

USA head coach Gregg Berhalter made nine changes from the side that defeated Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League final on Sunday, naming a starting XI with an average age of 23 years, 278 days. 

With stars Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie resting on the bench, two USA players scored their first international goals in a match that was never in doubt. 

Brenden Aaronson opened the scoring after eight minutes, rushing into the area to drive a rebound past Leonel Moreira after Daryl Dike's shot attempt was blocked by a Costa Rica defender. 

Three minutes before the interval, Dike slipped behind the Costa Rica defense and eased a shot past the onrushing Moreira for his first international goal and a 2-0 USA lead at the break. 

Early in the second half, Reggie Cannon opened his international account as well, slotting home a left-footed shot after intercepting a careless Costa Rica pass. 

Moments after coming on as a substitute in the 75th minute, 18-year-old Gio Reyna drew a penalty on a foul by Keysher Fuller in the box and converted for his fourth USA goal. 

Ethan Horvath got the start in goal for the USA on his 26th birthday after his stunning 120th-minute penalty save on Mexico's Andres Guardado on Sunday and turned in a clean sheet. 

Costa Rica are now winless in their last 11 matches (2D, 9L) dating to a 2-1 victory over Curacao in November 2019. 

Christian Pulisic scored a 114th-minute penalty and substitute goalkeeper Ethan Horvath saved a spot-kick six minutes later as the United States overcame Mexico 3-2 after extra time in a stunning inaugural CONCACAF Nations League final.

Poster boy Pulisic, who ended the 2020-21 campaign as a Champions League winner with Chelsea, converted deep into the second period of extra time after Carlos Salcedo was penalised for a foul following a VAR review on Sunday.

Mexico had the chance to force a penalty shoot-out six minutes later after receiving a spot-kick of their own via VAR, but Horvath – a replacement for injured star Zack Steffen in the 69th minute – denied Andres Guardado.

Extra time was needed after the Nations League decider finished 2-2 at the end of 90 absorbing minutes in Denver, where Jesus Corona's first-minute opener was cancelled out by Giovanni Reyna approaching the half-hour mark.

Mexico thought they had won the trophy thanks to substitute Diego Lainez in the 79th minute but Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie equalised three minutes later to send the match to extra time.

CONACAF Gold Cup holders Mexico were gifted a dream start inside a minute when Mark McKenzie's pass across the penalty area was played into the path of Corona, who fired powerfully past Steffen.

USA looked vulnerable defensively after the self-inflicted wound, though Josh Sargent managed to test Ochoa three minutes later.

Mexico thought they doubled the lead in the 24th minute after Hector Moreno found himself unmarked as he headed home Hector Herrera's delivery, but it was ruled offside following a VAR review.

That was a massive sigh of relief for USA, who went up the other end and equalised two minutes later via Reyna after McKennie's header had rattled the post.

Hirving Lozano wasted a golden chance to restore Mexico's lead two minutes before half-time – the Napoli forward beat the offside trap to find himself in a one-on-one situation with Steffen, but the City goalkeeper was quick off his line.

Mexico continued to be a threat in the second half, however Tata Martino's men had nothing to show for their efforts.

Sargent wasted a great opportunity to put the USA ahead just past the hour mark, but his rebound after Ochoa spilled McKenzie's long-range effort went over the bar.

Ochoa produced a magnificent save to keep the match on level terms, the Mexico goalkeeper diving to keep out McKennie's header with 19 minutes remaining.

Mexico introduced Lainez in the 78th minute and it proved an inspired substitution after drifting onto his left foot and firing into the back of the net a minute later, but the lead lasted just three minutes as McKennie restored parity with a header from a corner.

Extra time was needed, and VAR played a huge role in the second half of the additional period – USA firstly awarded a penalty in the 114th minute following Salcedo foul at the conclusion of a review.

VAR then ruled that McKenzie handled the ball inside the box the 120th minute, but Guardado saw his penalty saved by Horvath in wild scenes.

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