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JaVale McGee, not Christian Wood, lands final U.S. Olympics spot

USA TODAY Sports Media Group
USA TODAY Sports Media Group
 2021-07-16
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AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

Hours after a report emerged that Houston Rockets center Christian Wood was under consideration for a vacated roster spot with USA Basketball in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, it appears that veteran JaVale McGee was the U.S. team’s choice among available big men.

McGee and San Antonio forward Keldon Johnson — who happens to play for Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich with the NBA’s Spurs — were officially named to the final U.S. roster, replacing Bradley Beal and Kevin Love. Both Beal (health and safety protocols) and Love (calf injury) had been removed from the roster in recent days.

It seems highly unlikely that any further roster spots will open up, since Team USA is poised to travel to Japan in the next few days.

Assuming Wood was healthy, available, and willing to play, it appears to be a curious decision at face value. The 25-year-old big man averaged 21.0 points (51.4% FG, 37.4% on 3-pointers) and 9.6 rebounds per game in Houston last season, whereas McGee played very limited roles with Cleveland and Denver while averaging 7.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 14.7 minutes. In particular, Wood’s superior shooting from 3-point range would seem to make him a better fit for international play.

However, the 33-year-old McGee is a three-time NBA champion, and perhaps Popovich wanted to prioritize that type of experience for what will likely be the team’s final roster selection.

USA Basketball’s schedule at the Olympics begins on Sunday, July 25, with a high-profile Group A matchup versus France. Tipoff from the Saitama Super Arena is set for 7:00 a.m. Central.

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