For the first time in the history of the Toronto Raptors franchise, there will be two current teammates representing the squad as members of the United States Olympic Men’s Basketball Team. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will be occupying two backcourt spots on the 12-man roster.
Toronto guard Kyle Lowry has accepted an invitation to play for Team USA in the Rio Olympics, league sources tell @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 23, 2016
Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan has committed to Team USA for the Rio Olympics, league sources tell The Vertical.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 23, 2016
This is a major deal for a couple reasons. One of those being that it is the first time in the history of the Raptors franchise where two players were chosen to represent the US in the Olympics, especially with the United States being as stacked and powerful as they always are. There have only been two other players in team history to be chosen to represent the Americans: Chris Bosh in 2008 where the US won Gold, as well as Vince Carter in 2000 where he too won Gold in Sydney. DeRozan represented the US in 2014 at the FIBA World Cup in Spain so he isn’t a stranger to wearing the USA logo on the front of his jersey, but the Olympics is a whole different animal. Another reason for the relevance of this is the experience that these two players will get will be essential to their development as players.
The beauty of these two players playing in the Olympics is that they are not only representing their native United States, they are also representing Toronto, and Canada as a whole. It shows where basketball is at in our country where we can have two of Toronto’s own players playing for an Olympic Gold Medal on the biggest international sports stage. After the franchise’s best season in their history where they finished second in the conference, made the Eastern Conference Finals, and featured two players (DeRozan and Lowry) in the all-star game, this just puts the cherry on the sundae for the team.
To go along with Lowry and DeRozan, Raptors Centre Jonas Valanciunas will be representing his home country of Lithuania, in Rio. The trio will all be making their Olympic debuts. Raptors backup point guard, Cory Joseph, would also have been making his first Olympics had Team Canada qualified a few weeks ago in their qualifying tournament in Manila, however, that didn’t quite work out.
The US team this year is not as good as it could have been. Some notable omissions to the team this year are: reigning Finals MVP LeBron James, reining NBA MVP Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, just to name a few. Not saying that DeRozan and Lowry weren’t deserving of a roster spot, which they definitely were, but had those previously mentioned players decided to play, it would have made making the roster a lot tougher for the Raptor guards. James and Curry are seen as arguably the two best players in the world so they wouldn’t have had any trouble making the team. However, after a long playoff run like those two just had, resting seems like the smartest option for their longevity as NBA players.
Having three players playing in the Olympics is great for the city and the team as far as representation for the city and country goes, but looking at what it does for the actual players is a great thing as well. Practicing with, playing with, and just being around the culture of the entire Olympic experience can not be bad for the player’s own development. It is almost like being involved in an all-star weekend for an entire month. Spending full days with players like Kevin Durant, Paul George and Kyrie Irving can only add to the experience that Lowry and DeRozan will have when they make it to Rio. Playing with the best players makes you want to play your best and be even better than them. Even for Valanciunas, playing against these players can only add to his already expanding game. The Lithuanian team has a chance at a medal this year and JV is the centrepiece of that talented squad. Being the go-to guy on a basketball team does wonders for a player’s confidence. Expect Valanciunas to be in the running for first team all-Olympics when the games are finished.
Having your players represent their countries in the Olympics is always a nice thing to see, but it does come with its risks. The potential for injury is high, especially when players are playing for medals and the chance to perform well for their homeland. Just look at what happened to Paul George two years ago in preparation for the FIBAs. The risks are there, but with a coaching staff spearheaded by Mike Krzyzewski, with Gregg Popovich lurking in the shadows, it guarantees that the players will be taken care of to the best of everyone’s abilities.
The US Men’s Basketball Team will open their schedule on August 6th. They will be placed in Group A, which also features: France, Venezuela, Serbia, China and Australia. Look for Team France to be the United States’ biggest threat during the first stage.
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