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Durant Leads Team USA Roster Full of First-Time Olympians

Nets star Kevin Durant will be looking to bring home his third Olympic gold medal this summer as he leads the U.S. men's basketball team into Tokyo. 

Many of his teammates, however, will be looking to bring home gold in their first Olympic appearance. 

The 12-person team was announced Monday with Durant, Warriors forward Draymond Green and Cavaliers forward Kevin Love as the three returning Olympians. Green took home gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics, while Love was on the '12 U.S. men's basketball Olympic team that won gold in London. 

“This was an unusually challenging selection process for many reasons, including the year postponement of the Olympics and the issues related to the timing of the NBA regular season and playoffs," USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said in a statement.

“Our roster features players who are experienced in the international game, and this team has outstanding athleticism, versatility and balance. We also believe we have excellent leadership which is a necessity in order to develop the needed chemistry. We still have a lot of challenges in front of us, but I believe these players will become a team that all Americans will be proud of.” 

Here are three things to know about the U.S. roster: 

The roster comprises proven NBA stars, but how will the team's lack of Olympic experience impact its play, if at all?

Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal, Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker and Damian Lillard represent five of the nine newcomers on the U.S. roster, but all five have emerged as proven NBA stars in recent seasons. Lillard is coming off one of his best NBA seasons to date, averaging 28.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists in 2020–21 with the Blazers. While Beal led the league in scoring this season at 31.3 points per contest.

Tatum, a two-time All-Star, was a member of the 2019 World Cup team and averaged a career-high 26.4 points per game last season for the Celtics. Adebayo, fresh off a '20 NBA Finals appearance with the Heat, also averaged a career-high 18.7 points this season and was named to the All-Defensive Second Team. 

Throw in Devin Booker, who is looking to lead the Suns to their first title in franchise history, and the first-timers on the U.S. Olympic team represent some of the sport's brightest stars. 

It's also worth noting that the average age—calculated by USA Basketball to be 28.2 at the end of the Tokyo Games if this roster doesn’t change—ranks behind only the 1996 team (29.4) and the original Dream Team in '92 (29.0) as the oldest groups that the U.S. has sent to the Olympics.

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The other four first-timers are Zach LaVine, Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Jerami Grant.

How do the players still active in the NBA postseason handle the quick turnaround?

This would appear to be one of the biggest unanswered questions about the upcoming U.S. men's Olympic team. Holiday and Middleton will both be making their Olympic debut this summer, as will Booker. Each is still participating in the NBA postseason, and it's very possible Milwaukee and Phoenix meet in the NBA Finals.

The basketball competition itself is not set to begin until July 25. 

Colangelo told ESPN's Brian Windhorst that all three have committed to traveling quickly to Japan by private plane ahead of Team USA's July 25 opener against France, but it's fair to wonder how fatigue will come into play if both the Suns and Bucks meet in the NBA Finals. 

What does Team USA look like under new coach Gregg Popovich?

This summer's Olympics will also be the biggest international test yet for head coach Gregg Popovich. The Spurs coach was named Team USA's head coach in 2015 but did not assume the position until '17. 

Popovich will look to pick up where his predecessor, Mike Krzyzewski, left off, as the U.S. men's basketball team won gold medals in each of the three games where Krzyzewski was the group's head coach.

“I’m happy for the selected players and looking forward to having the opportunity to work with this wonderful group when practice gets underway on July 6 in Las Vegas,” Popovich said in a statement. “I’m excited to represent the United States in our quest to earn a gold medal in Tokyo.”

Also on Popovich's staff will be a number of the sport's top coaches, including Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Villanova head coach Jay Wright and former Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce.

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