Zach LaVine Cleared to Travel to Tokyo, Play with Team USA in 2021 Olympics

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 21, 2021

United States' Zach LaVine plays against Australia during an exhibition basketball game Monday, July 12, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
AP Photo/John Locher

USA Basketball announced Wednesday that Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine has cleared COVID-19 health and safety protocols. He'll arrive in Tokyo on Thursday ahead of the Summer Olympics.

Team USA men's basketball opens play at the Games on Sunday against France.

LaVine joined the Americans' starting lineup for their last two exhibition games after the Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal entered COVID-19 protocols and was removed from the Olympics roster. The Bulls star tallied 28 total points in wins over Argentina and Spain.

The 26-year-old Washington native averaged 27.4 points, which ranked seventh in the NBA, along with 5.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 3.4 threes across 58 games during the 2020-21 season. He shot 50.7 percent from the field, including 41.9 percent from three-point range.

Despite LaVine's individual success, the Bulls haven't qualified for the playoffs since he arrived from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a June 2017 trade.

The UCLA product told Jamal Collier of the Chicago Tribune he wanted to bring a "winning mentality" back from the Olympics to Chicago.

"These are guys that have been around winning," LaVine said. "This will probably be the best team that I'll be around, so try and compete for gold, pick up little tricks and just that mentality of how they approach practice, pregame, things like that, talks in the locker room. All that stuff I'm trying to bring back and add some little extra ammo for my own well-being."

Team USA is the three-time defending gold medal champion in men's basketball at the Games, but losses to Nigeria and Australia in exhibitions leading up to the tournament raised questions about whether the U.S. could face stiffer competition as it attempts to four-peat.

LaVine should play a prominent role for the Americans, especially at the outset. He figures to share playing time with the Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker at shooting guard, but Booker may not be used extensively right out of the gate since he just finished the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.

The U.S. will play France, Iran and the Czech Republic in Group A play, which runs through July 31. The knockout stages begin Aug. 3.