By Arnie Leshin
Wonder if Gregg Popovich is rooting for the Milwaukee Bucks to wrap up the National Basketball Association championship tonight.
If so, the main reason is that the head coach currently has a short-handed United States National Men’s Basketball Team roster. And with the Bucks up 3-2 in the finals against the visiting Phoenix Suns tonight, a win would get their Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday and Phoenix’ Devin Booker on a flight to Japan for the Tokyo Summer Olympics that begin Friday with the opening ceremonies.
If Milwaukee loses, the deciding game 7 will be played in Phoenix Thursday night.
Then there’s the current pandemic positive test belonging to Zach LaVine, a probable starter, who is now on quarantine but the latest word is that he could be in Japan Friday, although he wasn’t cleared for the Monday flight.
There’s also the 7-foot JaVale McGee, one of the two replacements after Kevin Love and Bradley Beal informed Popovich they would no longer be on the squad for various reasons. The other replacement, Keldon Johnson, played against Spain, scored 15 points, and is now with the team in Japan. McGee intends to fly there before Friday.
Otherwise, the 12-man roster is set except for the present status of LaVine. He played at UCLA and is now with the Golden State Warriors as is Draymond Green. The main man has to be 6-10 Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets. The key sharpshooter is guard Damian Lillard from the Portland Trailblazers, there’s two quality forwards in Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat) and Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics).
The remainder of the roster has forward Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons, while Johnson plays for Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs and McGee is currently with the Denver Nuggets.
Three of the players, Johnson, Booker and Adabayo, played for Kentucky, LaVIne and Holiday for UCLA, Durant for Texas, Middleton for Texas A & M, McGee for Nevada, Lillard for Weber State, Green for Michigan State, and Grant for Syracuse.