This post is sort of a potpourri of sorts on the 2020 Olympics in Japan. The good news is that there is no shortage of Washington Wizards and Mystics players who will be in the games. SEVEN players are expected to be there, barring unforeseen events.
D.C. players on men’s teams
- Rui Hachimura (Japan, the home team!!!)
- Bradley Beal (United States)
- Issac Bonga (Germany)
D.C. players on women’s teams
- Ariel Atkins (United States)
- Tina Charles (United States)
- Leilani Mitchell (Australia)
- Emma Meesseman (Belgium)
We will certainly have a lot more posts in the coming weeks on the Olympic teams, mostly with the American teams, but we will still have content on the Japanese men’s team, Australian women’s team and Belgian women’s teams.
At any rate, it still feels strange that players on the local teams are representing the USA in this thing. But I feel good nevertheless. Here are three topics I wanted to touch on for this post.
Bradley Beal and the USA Basketball men’s national team get ready for a tough test vs. Nigeria on Saturday
The American men’s team has been practicing in Las Vegas this week in preparation for the Olympics. Their first friendly will be on Saturday, July 10 when they play Nigeria. Tipoff is at 5 p.m. ET at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay, better known as the home of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.
I have listed the entire schedule in the post below:
Nigeria is currently the 22nd ranked team in the world, but they opened their camp back in June. Their roster is stacked with NBA players. In fact, 13 NBA players were on their preliminary roster, which includes Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby, Pistons forward Jahlil Okafor and former NBA player Ike Diogu is still the captain. They are led by long-time NBA head coach Mike Brown, so this roster won’t be a bunch of minnows, even though D’Tigers aren’t necessarily stacked like some European teams (France and Spain come to mind) are. Many of the newest players representing Nigeria are doing so for the first time.
The Nigerian roster has since been pared down to 15 players, eight of whom are in the NBA, but still, that’s impressive for a country which isn’t as well established on the world stage as the USA, Spain, France, Australia, Argentina, etc.
While Brown has yet to recruit potential Nigerian dual nationals who are also NBA superstars (ex - Giannis Antetokounmpo is of Nigerian descent but plays for Greece), he is doing something like Morocco has with men’s soccer, where five players on the Atlas Lions on their 2018 FIFA World Cup roster were born, raised and played in the Netherlands where there is a large Moroccan Dutch community.
If you are a Dutch soccer fan, you would also know that De Oranje missed the World Cup that year, and the FIFA nationality choices of several Dutch-born players has caused controversy in the Netherlands specifically.
To bring this back to basketball, of course, Nigeria, even on paper with a roster full of NBA reserve and some starting level players, just doesn’t have the firepower to beat the USA consistently. But in basketball overall, we are seeing more American dual nationals playing for other countries for various reasons. For now, it’s because those players had no chance of competing for the USA. But I do expect to see some bigger defections for other countries sooner rather than later with dual nationals.
After all, the late Kobe Bryant said, “It’s not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the USA. It’s a matter of the rest of the world has been caught up for quite some time. It’s come to the point where we, as the USA, are going to win some, we’re going to lose some. And that’s just how it goes.”
I still predict a win for the USA in the friendly, but I think Nigeria may start the game stronger than expected because they’ve been training longer together.
Check out some of the comments by or about Beal yesterday in media availability
As you might expect, Beal was very happy with being the first Wizards player to be on the Olympic team as Chasse Hughes of NBC Sports Washington noted.
Bradley Beal says he didn't know he was the first Wizards player to represent the franchise and city for Team USA in the Olympics. Called it an honor.— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) July 7, 2021
Beal also mentioned something about the focus of the Olympics: it’s to win America’s fourth consecutive Gold Medal in men’s basketball. Last year, NBA players (and even more so, WNBA players) have been very outspoken on political subjects, especially racial injustice. However, the team agreed in a meeting to focus on basketball first. In addition, Rule 50 of the International Olympic Committee prohibits athletes from making political expressions during ceremonies, competitions and on the medal podium.
Speaking the gold medal (or any medal), Beal answered a question that our own Greydy Diaz asked him on what will happen after. Mom’s keeping that medal for herself!
.@RealDealBeal23 told me his mom will prob steal his gold medal from him if he wins one in Tokyo— Greydy (@GreydyDiaz) July 7, 2021
@usabasketball #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/12P57587eQ
Finally, USA Basketball men’s national team (and San Antonio Spurs) head coach Gregg Popovich though Beal was “wiry and thin” but now thinks he is “thick.”
Gregg Popovich said that Bradley Beal looks 'thick' at USA Basketball training camp, not 'thin and wiry' like he used to think of Beal.— theScore (@theScore) July 8, 2021
( ️: @DimeUPROXX)pic.twitter.com/MS3DTzAqXD
Uh....... Beal was always a decently built guy, even as .... a rookie?
Rui Hachimura will be a flag bearer for Japan in the Olympics
OFFICIAL: Rui Hachimura has been announced as a flag bearer for Team Japan. #DCAboveAll | @rui_8mura pic.twitter.com/7Pq9YEjKfA— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) July 6, 2021
As one of Japan’s highest-profile athletes representing the home team, I was not surprised to see that Hachimura was named a co-flag bearer for Team Japan. The Japanese Olympic Committee announced it on Wednesday in Japanese time given that the Wizards’ tweet happened on Tuesday. He will be with Yui Susaki, who won the world championship in women’s freestyle wrestling in 2017 and 2018.