Johnson, McGee named as replacements for Team USA roster
The replacements have been named for two members of the Team USA roster following positive COVID tests.
Forward Keldon Johnson and center JaVale McGee were named as roster replacements for Bradley Beal and Kevin Love.
“I don’t have any concerns,” guard Zach LaVine said. “We’re the best basketball players in the world. We’re able to compete and do things in certain circumstances. We have to go out here and get the job done regardless, I don’t think anybody’s going to feel bad for us or try to take it easy.”
Beal tested positive for COVID-19 and immediately entered health and safety protocols.
“I’ve given him a couple texts,” LaVine said. “You know it sucks, I was reaching out to him throughout the day. Just it sucks, man. This year has been terrible for all of us and for him to get it at this time, right before we leave, I know his family’s here so hopefully everybody is safe. I think that’s more important than basketball, his safety and him knowing that he’s supported by us.”
The first-time Olympian made the senior men’s national roster for the first time after nine years in the NBA.
Love, however, is being forced out of the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo due to injury.
“Right after the season ended I didn’t really take any time off,” he said earlier in camp. “I continued to rehab and stay in shape -- just to keep myself ready. My number was called for USAB and obviously we had a couple of guys that went down with injuries throughout the playoffs but I just continued to work my way into shape not knowing if the call was going to come.”
The 32-year old is coming off a season where he was limited to 25 games due to injury.
“I finally was getting over that last hurdle of my injury [at the end of the NBA season],” Love said earlier in camp. “Now feeling great I thought it was a great opportunity for me to play high-level basketball and have that transition into this next season.”
The former NBA champion Love is not set to become a free agent until after the 2022-23 season.
However, their departure opens the door for two other first-time Olympians.
Johnson will now be the youngest player on the roster at 21 years old after being permanently moved over from the Select Team.
Earlier in camp, head coach Gregg Popovich was asked what he’d ideally like for Johnson to get out of the Team USA experience as a select team member.
He cited the exact experience guard Derrick White had during his time on the select team in 2019.
Johnson is also coached by Popovich on the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA along with White.
“I’m blessed and honored to be an Olympian,” he said. “Literally, this morning I came downstairs and Pop asked me, ‘Did your life change a little bit?’ And I was like, ‘Nah, what are you talking about?’ -- Because I don’t have Twitter so I can’t really keep up with it.
“Then [Managing Director Jerry Colangelo] came up to me and broke the news to me. I was lost for words, I didn’t even really know say but ‘Thank you.’”
Johnson just completed his second year in the league and played a career-high 69 games, starting 67 along the way.
In addition, he averaged nearly 13 points per game on 48% shooting to go along with six rebounds per contest.
“I’m definitely learning something new everyday,” Johnson said. “I’m around some of the best players in the league so if I don’t understand something, I ask them questions. Just seeing what they would do differently from what I would do. Then learn it and put my own spin on it.”
Johnson scored seven points in 13 minutes against Australia after not logging any minutes against Nigeria in the exhibition opener.
McGee, on the other hand, enters as a first-timer at 33 years of age.
A 16-year veteran in the NBA, McGee enters into international play with three NBA championships.
He is now tied with forward Draymond Green for the most NBA hardware on this year’s Olympic roster.
Similar to Johnson, McGee has been coached by someone on the Team USA coaching staff.
In fact, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr shares two championship rings with McGee from his time as a Warrior.
Forward Jerami Grant is also in health and safety protocols for Team USA but has not tested positive for the virus.
Therefore, he is expected to stay with the team ahead of travelling for the Olympics.