Team USA forward Draymond Green credited the Milwaukee Bucks' Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton and the Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker for keeping their commitment to the U.S. for the Tokyo Olympics despite playing in the 2021 NBA Finals, which wrapped up Tuesday.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported the trio arrived in Japan via private jet around 11 p.m. local time Saturday night. The Americans open group play against France on Sunday at 9 p.m. in Tokyo (8 a.m. ET in the U.S.).
"I have a lot of respect for those guys for not only committing to do this but actually keeping their word," Green told Windhorst. "You're talking about three true professionals, three extremely competitive guys that wouldn't be on their way here if this didn't mean something."
Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich said Friday he expected Holiday, Middleton and Booker will be available for Sunday's game against France, the Americans' toughest foe in Group A, but he wasn't sure how much they would play given the quick turnaround and long travel.
"I have no idea [how to use them]. I'm not trying to be glib. I'm trying to be transparent," Popovich said, per Windhorst. "Maybe they'll be OK for the game [Sunday] and it'll hit them two days later. Maybe we should play them in the first half and see what they're like."
Ideally, Popovich would be able to get some key minutes from all three players against France and then give them some extra rest in what should be more straightforward games against Iran and the Czech Republic ahead of the knockout rounds.
That depends on whether the Americans can score a victory over a French squad led by Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum, though. Nothing is guaranteed after a lackluster set of exhibition games that included losses to Nigeria and Australia.
Green explained to Windhorst the three players from the Finals all had a reason to drop out, but the fact they all decided to show up for Team USA is a message to the rest of the roster:
"We could've very easily got to the last game ... and Devin Booker saying, 'Man, we lost, I'm pissed off, I'm out,' or Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday saying, 'We just won a championship, I want to celebrate and stay home with my family, I'm out.' It's on us to make sure that we do our parts to make sure they're rewarded with what they ultimately came here for, which is to help us to compete and win a gold medal."
The U.S., which has won the Olympic gold medal in men's basketball at the past three Games, is still the team to beat in Tokyo despite not looking dominant in the warm-up games.
That said, Holiday, Middleton and Booker will have to play key roles if the Americans are going to four-peat, so the coaching staff will hope they can hit the ground running after playing in the Finals.