NBA MVP finalists show Paris Olympics challenge Kerr and Team USA face – NBC Sports Bay Area

NBA MVP finalists show Paris Olympics challenge Kerr and Team USA face – NBC Sports Bay Area

Steve Kerr understands the magnitude of the job ahead of him, but the second day of the NBA playoffs delivered news, largely obscured by four Game 1s on the court, that put the Warriors coach squarely on notice of his task gargantuan this summer.

The NBA on Sunday announced the three finalists for each of the seven official awards that will be handed out in the coming weeks, and all three players have lined up. for the MVP award are a preview of what awaits Kerr and Team USA once they reach the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

None of the three – Luka Donćić, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nikola Jokić – will make Team USA. Doncić will represent Slovenia, Gilgeous-Alexander will represent Canada and Jokić will represent Serbia.

The news ensures that this will be the sixth year in a row that the MVP of the league designed in America will be someone born elsewhere.

It’s the latest reminder that the wide talent gap that once defined American basketball exceptionalism is rapidly narrowing toward invisibility. This is the third consecutive season that American-born players have been excluded from the finalists.

A look at the top five vote-getters in each of the last four seasons reveals that only three Americans were selected: Jayson Tatum finished fourth last year, Devin Booker finished fourth in 2022, and in 2021, Stephen Curry finished third and Chris Paul fifth. .

As recently as 2018, the top five vote-getters were Americans.

If this trend isn’t alarming enough for the red, white and blue, consider Kerr’s fourth-place U.S. team at last summer’s FIBA ​​World Cup. This group, without a player capable of presenting a Hall of Fame-worthy resume, returned home without a medal after losing its last two games against Germany and then Canada.

After an inglorious season with the Warriors, Kerr is now looking at what feels a lot like an ultimatum. Win gold or return to the United States in shame.

The list of what could be considered Redeem Team II is built for the quest. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James are the three best players of their generation. Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid and Kawhi Leonard are Hall of Famers in waiting. Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Jayson Tatum won gold in Tokyo with Team USA at the 2020 Olympics. Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton represent the best of the next generation.

“We obviously have the cream of the crop,” Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area last week.

Team USA’s roster is the best America has to offer, although Embiid comes with an asterisk. He was born in Cameroon and moved to the United States as a teenager, obtained French citizenship in 2022 and two months later became a naturalized American citizen.

After initially announcing he would represent France, Embiid chose last October to join Team USA. This did not please some people in France.

“Team USA, with him, who can beat you? Come on, nobody,” Jean-Pierre Siutat, president of the French Basketball Federation, told The Athletic. “It’s an easy way for him to get an Olympic medal.”

And Siutat’s salty response is mild compared to that delivered by former French Olympian Frédéric Weis.

“I consider this boy a great player as much as a bad guy,” Weis said on his French radio show RMP. “I hate him for the things he did. I think he has no respect for France and also for all the people who ask for a French passport and don’t get it. And under the pretext that he is a great athlete, he got it. I find that scandalous. I find it embarrassing.

France planned for Embiid to join Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama in a “Triple Towers” ​​frontcourt. Embiid, at 7 feet, would be the shortest.

The evil is real. French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly contacted Embiid last fall, hoping to persuade the 76ers big man to join France. Weis could be excused for this hyperbole; he has a radio show to sell. But there is a clear reason for this disappointment and vitriol.

France believes Embiid would allow it to win gold on the biggest international stage. Imagine the euphoria that would follow the French men’s team winning its first Olympic gold medal on home turf.

Such confidence would be legitimized by the fact that it was France that ended the Americans’ 25-game winning streak at the Olympics in 2021.

Team USA players will join Kerr and his assistants – Mark Few of Gonzaga, Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Clippers and Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat – on July 6 in Las Vegas for training camp.

“It’s a six-week getaway, you know, it happens quickly,” Kerr said last week. “So, in general, you’re not going to do a lot of complex things. I kind of know what we’re going to do and how we’re going to operate.

For the sake of Kerr’s international reputation, as well as that of the players, having a plan in place is a great place to start.

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