The quality of players that Team USA brings to Rio is high as usual. Even with notable stars being out — Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry to name a few — the United States should still be the favorite to win the gold. Due to a bunch of prolific floor generals not making the trip, Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors was extended an invitation and accepted it, per Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.
Related: Stephen Curry pulls out of Olympics
Lowry was a huge piece of Toronto’s success this year and had his best season since coming out of Villanova in 2006. The 29-year-old veteran set career-highs in points per game (21.2), steals per game (2.1), and three-point shooting (38.8 percent) while assisting DeMar DeRozan in what was the Raptors’ best season in franchise history. After going 56-26, they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers to in six games. Their exit was largely in part of the struggles both Lowry and DeRozan experienced on offense. Lowry took an especially hard hit and shot just 39.7 percent overall and 30.4 percent from three.
Although Team USA found an established point guard to run the team, another of the league’s premier guards dropped out.
A “frustrated” Damian Lillard was reported to have declined the invitation because he felt pressured by Team USA to decide, according to Sam Amick of USA TODAY. Lillard, however, does have a nagging plantar fasciitis injury that he is rehabbing, and it’s believed he would’ve played if USAB had given him more time to decide.
If it’s true, and Team USA did force Lillard’s hand, it was a mistake on their part.
Dame has cemented himself as a top point guard in the league after averaging 25.1 points, 6.8 assists, and knocking down 229 threes at a 37.5 percent clip. Moreover, he almost singlehandedly carried the Portland Trail Blazers to 44-38 record and a second round appearance in the playoffs.
While it’s a crushing blow for USAB, it’s understandable to see Lillard decline to play for a chance to rest up for next season, where the Blazers will be even more formidable. The numbers put up were incredible, and a backcourt of him and C.J. McCollum is going to compete with the Splash Brothers for the title of the best backcourt.