Two New York Basketball Stars Invited to Play in Olympics
With the Knicks and Nets officially eliminated from the NBA playoffs, the focus of the New York basketball scene shifts to another target.
The 2020 (or '21? Which one are we calling it?) Olympics.
We've had some notable players commit to playing with Team USA, including Damian Lillard, Jayson Tatum, and the currently-in-the-playoffs-and-lighting-it-up Devin Booker. We've also had prominent stars opt not to join the team, including Steph Curry, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Something about the Californians, I guess.
Kevin Durant and James Harden, two of the three pillars of the Brooklyn Nets super team, have taken their talents to Tokyo, and committed to playing in the Olympics this year. And it's a pretty big deal.
I loved the way that Ian O'Connor of the New York Post put it, that Durant playing in the Olympics "isn't as crazy as it sounds." And he's right, in a sense. Durant put it ALL on the line, carrying the Nets in the playoffs while Kyrie Irving and Harden missed time due to injuries. He played every minute of every game down the stretch, reaching 40 points with ease toward the end of the Nets' run. But, all was for naught, and Durant and the Nets went championship-less in a year where they were the favorites. As long as he's 100 percent healthy and not risking his availability come Opening Night 2021-22, I can understand his desire to add a third gold medal to his collection.
For Harden, the 2020-21 season likely left a bad taste in his mouth. After his trade to the Nets, he seemed destined to contend for his first NBA title. However, his own injuries derailed the season a bit, and the aforementioned Irving injuries proved to be the dagger. Having not participated in the Olympics, Harden's last team trophy was a gold medal in 2012. He looked healthy enough to contribute on a regular basis in Game 7 against the Bucks, and with more time to rest, should arrive in Tokyo reinvigorated.
Check out Sports Illustrated's Olympic Team Tracker for more updates on who's headed to Tokyo, and who is not.
UPDATE (12:10 PM, June 25, 2021): Reports have surfaced that James Harden has chosen not to participate in the Olympics, rescinding his previous acceptance of the offer from USA Basketball. Harden will continue to rehab his injured hamstring during this time.