Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type: 21-year-old Keldon Johnson is just hours away from suiting up as an official member for Team USA Men’s Basketball.
It took some bad luck for the players in front of him, but Johnson was recently elevated from the USA Select Team to the 12-man Team USA roster that will head over to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics, which begin next week. The former Kentucky Wildcat and current member of the San Antonio Spurs is set to make his debut for Team USA as an official roster member during Sunday night’s final exhibition match against Spain.
Johnson was officially added to Team USA’s roster on Friday after it was announced that Kevin Love (injury) and Bradley Beal (COVID-19 protocols) would not suit up for the Olympics. Johnson has already played in a couple of Team USA games out of necessity, but this will be his first time as an official rostered player. He had previously been promoted to a fill-in position, but now he’s part of the traveling roster.
Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee was also added to the roster along with Johnson. Tonight’s game is scheduled to tip-off at 9:00 p.m. EST in Las Vegas and will air on the NBC Sports Network.
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) July 16, 2021
Team USA was expected to play on Friday night against Australia, however, that game was canceled out of an abundance of caution due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The Americans are also missing three key players who are still playing in the NBA Finals: Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday. Those three are expected to join the rest of the team after the conclusion of that series. Former Wildcat Bam Adebayo is also on the roster.
It was a slow start to Johnson’s NBA career, as he spent the majority of his rookie season performing in the G League, playing just 17 games for the San Antonio Spurs. But after shining down the stretch of the regular season, the 6-foot-5 wing had fans eager to see more. As a second-year player, Johnson didn’t disappoint. He averaged 12.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 28.5 minutes per outing in 2020-21. Johnson started 67 of the 69 games he appeared in while shooting 47.9 percent from the field, 33.1 percent from beyond the arc, and 74.0 percent from the free-throw line.
Side note: Johnson and Middleton are the only two former G League players to ever represent Team USA at the Olympics.
Johnson was an easy choice to make the USA Select Team, which trains with Team USA before traveling for the Olympics, but he impressed enough in practice to eventually warrant the call-up. It also doesn’t hurt that the head coach of Team USA is his head coach in San Antonio, Gregg Popovich, but we over here at KSR don’t care either way.
The story of how Johnson received the news couldn’t be more perfect, too. Joe Vardon of The Athletic detailed how Johnson didn’t know he had been promoted to Team USA despite it going around on Twitter (Johnson doesn’t use social media all that often) and how his mother cried when he gave her the news. If you’re subscribed to The Athletic, you can read more about that right here.