The respect that players have for longtime Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was instrumental in getting star players to commit to Team USA for the Summer Olympics, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Popovich reached out to players but wasn’t overbearing and that helped gain their trust, compared to prior years when Team USA dealt with dozens of decommitments.
Windhorst also offered up some other interesting tidbits:
- Lillard was miffed when he missed the final cut before Team USA went to Spain for the World Cup in 2014. That played a role in his decision not to compete for the 2016 Olympic team. With Popovich now coaching the team and knowing this could be a last chance play in the Olympics, Lillard was eager to sign up this time.
- While Kevin Love‘s stature around the league has taken a big hit in recent years, Popovich valued his versatility and shooting. The Cavaliers were also very supportive of Love’s opportunity to play for Team USA.
- Pistons forward Jerami Grant was offered a spot after James Harden declined due his hamstring injury. Lillard and Durant vouched for Grant, which tipped the scales in his favor for one of the last roster spots.
- On the international front, former Mavericks forward Ryan Broekhoff has withdrawn from the Australian national team due to mental health issues, Sportando relays. “My mental health is something I have struggled with for a long time and I think it’s important for me to put my hand up and admit when things aren’t OK and that it is time to seek help,” he said in a statement.
- Lakers guard Dennis Schröder will not play for Germany during the Olympic qualifying tournament next week due to insurance issues, Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press tweets. Schroder will be entering free agency this summer.