Friday, July 12, 2024

Was Jaylen Brown left off Team USA because of Nike? Grant Hill responds to

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LAS VEGAS — Team USA executive director Grant Hill denied speculation that NBA Finals MVP Jaylen Brown was left off of the Olympic team because of the Celtics star’s past criticism of Nike.

Brown’s teammate Derrick White was named to Team USA on Wednesday as a replacement for Kawhi Leonard. 

Why was Jaylen Brown left off Team USA roster?

Many were surprised that Brown was not selected for the roster opening, apparently including Brown himself. He first shared a cryptic post on X, formerly known as Twitter. Brown later tagged Nike and said “this what we doing ?”

When Nike’s founder was critical of Kyrie Irving in 2022, Brown commented “Since when did Nike care about ethics?” In the past, Brown has worn Nike sneakers at times, but on Christmas Day did so without the iconic swoosh. 

Some in the basketball world speculated that was why Brown was left off Team USA. Following the team’s first exhibition game Wednesday night, Hill said that was not the case.

“You get 12 spots, and you have to build a team,” Hill said. “And one of the hardest things is leaving people off the roster that I’m a fan of that I look forward to watching throughout the season, throughout the playoffs. Guys who’ve been Finals MVPs, guys who’ve been a part of the program, guys who’ve won gold medals, guys who I respect, admire and enjoy watching. But the responsibility that I have is to put together a team and a team that complements each other, a team that fits a team that will give us the best opportunity for success,” Hill told reporters, via ESPN. “And, so, whatever theories that might be out there, they’re just that. But that’s my responsibility. And it’s tough. It’s tough to have conversations, tell people that they’re not on the team.”

Hill joked that he wore FILA for much of his career but was still an Olympian himself. He said decisions were made with one thing in mind – winning a gold medal. 

“I’m trying to win and I’m trying to put together the right pieces that fit and give us a chance to win,” Hill said.

Team USA wins first exhibition game

On the court, the road to the Paris Olympics started with a win for USA Basketball.

Anthony Davis scored 13 points, Stephen Curry added 12 and the United States opened its tune-up schedule for the Paris Games by topping Canada 86-72 on Wednesday night.

Jrue Holiday of the Celtics scored 11 points and Anthony Davis finished with 10 for the U.S., which has four more exhibitions before getting to France.

RJ Barrett scored 12 points for Canada, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dillon Brooks each had 10.

President Barack Obama was at the game, as were many NBA coaches and dozens of USA Basketball dignitaries in town for the federation’s 50th anniversary celebration. Among them: Jerry Colangelo, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dawn Staley, Lisa Leslie, Teresa Edwards, Swin Cash, Lindsay Whalen and many more.

And the total attendance was 20,757, a record for any game at T-Mobile Arena, USA Basketball said.

Team USA’s cold start

The U.S. was down 11-1 midway through the first quarter, having missed its first six shot attempts. The rest of the half: U.S. 40, Canada 22, and the Americans shot 18 for 28 — 64.3% — in that span. The lead was 41-33 at the break and the Americans stretched it to 69-54 going into the fourth.

It was easy to see where the Americans, who have been together for less than a week, still are figuring things out; there were at least four occasions where simple passes ended up in the first row of seats because someone thought a zig was coming instead of a zag.

Jayson Tatum helps spark Team USA

The second unit for the U.S. — Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton and Jayson Tatum — was particularly impressive. Each of those five players had a plus-minus of plus-10 or better, meaning the U.S. outscored Canada by at least 10 points with them on the floor.

And that’s as it should be. Only the Americans can trot out a lineup of “bench players” at the Olympics, all of them being All-Stars. That fivesome has 21 combined All-Star nods, two NBA champions in Davis and Tatum, and two perennial All-Defense players in Davis and Adebayo. It’s clearly not a typical second unit.

Oh, and remember: The U.S. didn’t have Kevin Durant (calf strain) and Derrick White (not yet with the team) available Wednesday.

Jrue Holiday gets the start

The first starting lineup of the summer rolled out by U.S. coach Steve Kerr: Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday, Devin Booker, LeBron James and Joel Embiid.

It certainly could change going forward. But if last year is any indication, it’s a clear view into Kerr’s thinking right now.

Kerr has cautioned in the past about not reading too much into lineups, especially from the first scrimmage. That said, the first five he had in the first exhibition game last summer going into the World Cup — Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Ingram and Anthony Edwards — were the starters in the tournament opener against New Zealand.

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