Milwaukee Bucks Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday head to Olympic Games
The grind continues for Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, as the two Milwaukee Bucks stars are headed to Tokyo to compete for the gold medal in the Olympic Games as members of the men’s U.S. national basketball team.
With the Bucks making the NBA Finals, the pair (along with Phoenix guard Devin Booker) missed the national team’s training camp in Las Vegas from July 6-18, which included exhibition games against Nigeria, Australia and Argentina.
So, the trio will head to Japan together on a private plane arranged by USA Basketball and was scheduled to arrive for the opening ceremonies.
They will be available to play against France in qualifying play Sunday.
“They kind of went about that process, I would say mostly on their own and I was very excited and happy for them,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said during the NBA Finals. “I think those opportunities are rare. They are great players. I think they love playing. As the players say, they love hooping and get to go play some more, and I think their focus is where it should be right now. I think they are in a good place. I think it’s an incredible opportunity for them, and excited and looking forward to seeing them be a part of Team USA.”
USA Basketball Schedule: Game times, streaming info, roster and more
Khris Middleton: ‘Everybody wants a chance to win a gold medal’
Middleton was an original finalist for the U.S. team before the Olympic Games were postponed in 2020 due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re in the middle of a championship run, but to take a second to think about something outside of this season, it was a little tough to think about it,” he said during the Eastern Conference finals, “but it was an easy decision for me to go ahead and commit.
“Everybody wants to be an Olympian and everybody wants a chance to win a gold medal but as far as the choice, it was easy, but trying to distract myself from that was a little bit challenging.”
Holiday was added to the finalist list this year when it became clear USA Basketball needed more players to choose from due to the compressed NBA schedule.
“A great guy,” USA men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “A terrific defender. He’s received NBA recognition for his defensive prowess. I think he’s a contributor. He’ll do whatever is asked of him. He’s that kind of player. He’s kind of a glue player, is the way I would describe him. Very excited to be a part of our roster.”
Holiday’s wife, Lauren, starred in past Olympics on soccer team
Holiday’s wife, Lauren, competed for the U.S. women’s soccer team and won gold in Beijing (2008) and London (2012).
“I don’t think I had to move my focus,” Jrue Holiday said of committing to the Olympics during the Eastern Conference finals. “I think it’s an honor to play for your country, especially an opportunity like this to be able to go out there and have USA on your chest. Also my wife played, has two gold medals. I’ve experienced from a fan standpoint and I thought it would be cool to experience it from actually playing.”
More: Jrue and Lauren Holiday pledge to make profound impact — both in Milwaukee and elsewhere — through social justice fund
Middleton and Holiday will join Booker, Bam Adebayo (Miami), Kevin Durant (Brooklyn), Jerami Grant (Detroit), Draymond Green (Golden State), Keldon Johnson (San Antonio), Zach LaVine (Chicago), Damian Lillard (Portland), JaVale McGee (Denver) and Jayson Tatum (Boston) on the U.S. roster. The team is headed by San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich.
Milwaukee Bucks have another player in Tokyo
Bucks rookie Jordan Nwora is also headed to Tokyo as a member of the Nigeria men’s national team under head coach and Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Mike Brown.
The Olympics gold medal game is Aug. 6.
Then, it will be a quick turn back to the Bucks for Middleton, Holiday and Nwora as training camp for the 2021-22 season opens at the end of September.
“It’s been a tough, tough way to put things together,” Colangelo said. “When COVID hit, the postponement of the Olympics for at least a year, no one quite was sure about what would transpire and when. The compactness of two NBA schedules back-to-back changed things a great deal. I think ultimately, it had some impact on injuries that have transpired in the league.
“And so, you deal with the cards that you’re dealt. And I think, with the great efforts of our organization, I think we’ve put together a strong team to represent the United States.”