Bradley Beal’s Olympic dream was cut abruptly short Thursday when USA Basketball announced the Washington Wizards star will miss the Tokyo Games after he entered coronavirus protocols at training camp Wednesday in Las Vegas.
USA Basketball announced Thursday night that Friday’s exhibition rematch against Australia was canceled.
“As far as Bradley’s concerned, I’m dying for him,” Popovich said. “We all are. Since he was a little kid, this has been a dream of his. He was playing great, he was having fun, being a big part of us coming together chemistry-wise, and his family — so for him, for his immediate family, it’s devastating. We just feel horrible about it.”
Center Bam Adebayo said he spoke to Beal and that the guard is not feeling any symptoms.
The U.S. men’s team is scheduled to head to Tokyo on Monday ahead of its opening game against France on July 25.
The team will be able to replace Beal with another player, though Popovich said it isn’t as simple as calling up any free NBA star. Conditioning is a major consideration; many players in May or June shut down the type of training necessary during an NBA season to allow their body to rest. On-court fit is another factor; Team USA has been working on chemistry and how it wants to play in Tokyo for a week.
“ … If somebody's coming in kind of blind and if they're out of shape, you're not sure how much they can help,” Popovich said. “It's going to take a certain individual that we think can pick it all up quickly.”
Playing in these Summer Olympics also requires a different type of commitment than those of years past. Family members of Olympians are not permitted to travel, and strict coronavirus protocols will be in place throughout the Games — not unlike the restrictions players were only recently freed from when their NBA seasons ended.
At training camp, players have been tested daily and follow health and safety protocols set by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for participants in the Games, which included mask-wearing and social distancing. The International Olympic Committee is not requiring Olympians to be vaccinated to compete in Tokyo, but they must return two negative coronavirus tests, one within 96 hours of departure and another within 72 hours of departure.
“Some people may not be ready to come. Some people may not be interested. Some people may be in rehab. Some people might be free agents. There’s all kinds of reasons. So we’re going to have to pretty quickly here, find someone we think will fit with all those sort of mini-questions having to be answered,” Popovich said. “. . . I don’t think we can replace, point-by-point, what Bradley did for us. All the players are different. There’s no next Bradley Beal. Just like there’s not next Damian Lillard or next [Kevin Durant]. All these guys are different. So maybe a utility infielder of some sort.”
The Tokyo Games were set to be Beal’s first Olympics after he participated in USA Basketball’s system for more than a decade. He averaged 10.3 points in the Americans’ first three exhibition games.
Teammate Draymond Green advocated for him Thursday, saying the guard should receive a gold medal if the Americans win one despite his absence.
“You already miss a lot of time with family due to the work schedule, and then to essentially give up five weeks of that in the summer [for the Olympics], it’s tough,” Green said. “But the experience, the opportunity to represent your country is one that we all dream about growing up. So to see the opportunity taken away, you can only sympathize with Brad and hope that, understanding what has taken place over the last 17, 18 months, we can accomplish our ultimate goal, which is going out to win a gold medal. You hope he still gets that gold medal because he did make that commitment to this team, to this country.”