As we understand it, after the NBA Finals, Phoenix guard Devin Booker had to board a plane for a 15-hour flight to Japan - with victors Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.
That could be an awkward trip but we bet two things will make it easier: first, all three guys are going to be very tired and second, on Tuesday they were opponents. Now, they're teammates.
And a good thing because they’ll be needed. Middleton showed the heart of a champion as much as anyone in these playoffs, Holiday will shore up defense and at point, and Booker is an elite scorer. All three guys will be valuable.
The games are all going to be on Peacock, NBC’s streaming service. The US is in Group A with France, Iran and the Czech Republic. Group B is Australia, Germany, Italy and Nigeria while Group C is Argentina, Solvenia, Spain and host country Japan.
The biggest challenge to the US in group play is likely to be France.
The Czechs have one NBA player Tomáš Satoranský, who you may recall took out RJ Barrett and Canada in the qualifying tournament with a thrilling last-second shot in overtime.
Nearly half the French team plays in the NBA - Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and Frank Ntilikina. Most of these names are pretty familiar, notably Batum, Fournier and Gobert, who is probably the best defensive-oriented big man in the world today.
The Iranian team will most likely not advance to the medal round although the US-Iran game could get interesting given the troubled history between the two nations.
As for the rest, in Group B we already knew Australia is dangerous and Nigeria has shown it is now capable as well. Italy and Germany are certainly competent but will have to prove they can keep up with the Boomers and the D’Tigers.
The Golden Generation has come and gone in Argentina but the game has put down roots there and we expect Argentina to be a factor in world basketball from here on out.
Slovenia of course has Luka Dončič which makes them profoundly dangerous. If that guy starts hitting tons of threes, his team is always going to be in it. They also have Vlatko Čančar, who plays for the Denver Nuggets.
Spain is aging but still very dangerous. It also has several NBA players, including Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio and the Hernangómez brothers, Willy and Juan or Juancho, depending on how he’s listed. Old standbys Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez are still on the team, as are Marc Gasol, Pau’s older brother.
They could conceivably make the medal round but are probably a bit too old to win gold.
Japan is unlikely to medal but we really liked their team from the last time out. They were spunky and didn’t mind playing with a bit of flair.
You won’t have heard of many of them - apparently Rui Hachimura won’t play and Japan’s other NBA players, Yuta Watanabe (Toronto) and Yudai Baba who was signed by Dallas but never played in the league aren’t on the roster.
So Japan medaling is a long shot.
Here’s Team USA’s schedule for Group Play:
- Sunday, July 25: vs. France, 8 a.m. EST
- Wednesday, July 28: vs. Iran, 12:40 a.m. EST
- Saturday, July 31: vs. Czech Republic, 8 a.m. EST
The games are on Peacock, as noted, but will also be on NBC later.