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NBA Rumors: Team USA Chose JaVale McGee over Christian Wood for 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 20, 2021

LAS VEGAS, NV -ย  JULY 18: JaVale McGee #11 of the USA Men's National Team warms up before the game against the Spain Men's National Team against the Spain Men's National Team on July 18, 2021 at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

USA Basketball reportedly selected JaVale McGee for its final roster spot at the Tokyo Olympics despite interest from the Houston Rockets' Christian Wood.

"Christian Wood would have come, but they went with JaVale McGee first," ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported Tuesday on his Hoop Collective podcast.

The last frontcourt spot on the 12-man roster has become a major point of contention.

Kevin Love was initially selected despite an injury-plagued season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he withdrew from the roster last week, noting he wasn't at 100 percent coming off a right calf injury.

Several players were mentioned as potential replacements, including Wood, as Team USA worked to replace Love and Bradley Beal, who dropped out after entering COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Beal's spot went to Keldon Johnson, who'd impressed with the USA Select squad and played well after being called up to the main roster for an exhibition against Argentina. The San Antonio Spurs' rising star was one of the squad's best players in Sunday's final warm-up game against Spain.

The McGee choice was met with more resistance as he played a limited bench role during the 2020-21 season, which he split between the Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets.

"We decided that was the most logical and appropriate choice. Given the choices we had, he fit the best," Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters Sunday.

It's a comment that would have made more sense if the Americans were always seeking a rim protector for the role, but the original selection of Love suggested they wanted an offensive-minded player.

Wood averaged 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.9 threes and 1.2 blocks across 41 appearances for the Rockets during the NBA campaign.

Ultimately, there's a precedent for taking a traditional center to round out the U.S. roster, with DeAndre Jordan and Tyson Chandler filling the role at the last two Olympics. It gives the coaching staff a defense-first post option for late in games that otherwise wouldn't be there.

Whether McGee was the right choice is up for debate, but criticism of the decision will fade away if the Americans walk away from Tokyo with another gold medal. It's an end result that isn't guaranteed after some lackluster showings in the exhibition games, though.

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