Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard say they will play in 2020 Olympics
Star guards for Warriors, Blazers commit to squad in separate interviews
From the sound of it, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is ready to suit up for Team USA in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The same can be said for another All-Star guard in the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard.
Curry, in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, says he’s committed to playing for the team next year. If he does so, it would mark the former two-time Kia MVP’s first appearance on the Olympic basketball stage.
“That is the plan, for sure,” Curry said, per ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “You know, obviously knock on wood, you don’t want any injuries or things like that to interfere.
“Definitely wanna go. I’ve never been on the Olympic team. I’ve been on two World Cup championship gold-medal teams. But the Olympics is the experience that I want. And next year will hopefully be it.”
— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) September 18, 2019
Lillard spoke with James McKern of news.com.au in Australia during a trip to Sydney as Adidas’ Global Ambassador. After Team USA’s seventh-place finish at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Lillard also made no bones about his plans next year:
“I plan on being a part of that. I plan on playing,” Lillard said exclusively to news.com.au.
When asked about adding an Olympic medal to his trophy cabinet, Lillard was emphatic: “Definitely”.
— James McKern (@jLmcKern) September 17, 2019
Curry has participated with Team USA as a member of the FIBA World Cup championship-winning teams in 2010 and ’14. Lillard has been in the USA Basketball mix since 2014, but has never participated in international play with the team.
Team USA’s showing in the latest World Cup assured it of the worst tournament showing in program history. Several key NBA stars — such as Lillard, Anthony Davis, James Harden, CJ McCollum, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan and others — withdrew from the team either before or during this summer’s training camp.
In an interview with SI.com on Tuesday, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said he felt “disappointment” over the players who backed out. Colangelo also said he’d “remember” the players who “didn’t show up.” But Curry’s declaration that he intends to play in 2020 may open the gates for those players who didn’t show up this summer to play again next summer.
Davis, Lillard and Harden were late withdrawals from Team USA, but Colangelo said that may not hurt them in being a part of the U.S. National Team come the 2020.
“We’re still the best,” Curry told ESPN. “If we get the guys that are supposed to be there, in terms of, you know, representing us in the Olympic stage and the commitment’s been there, and I think it’ll be there next year.”
Lillard, in his interview, also discussed the state of the Blazers and their place in the West hierarchy. Despite reaching their first conference finals since 2000, Lillard responded to the notion that Portland may not be a favorite to repeat that feat in 2019-20. The Blazers were busy in the offseason, picking up center Hassan Whiteside, guard Kent Bazemore and veteran forward Anthony Tolliver in various moves.
“For us it’s not really about what people are saying because we always come and show up. It’s almost better that they’re not expecting it to be us, that under the radar type of coming in and doing what we got to do,” Lillard told McKern.
“A lot of the guys that we brought in they compliment what we do and what we have. Hassan Whiteside being a lob threat, we never really had a lob threat and never had a rim protector like him. We’re going to have him for a full season and then we’ll get [center Jusuf Nurkic] Nurk back later in the season. Kent Bazemore an experienced wing, put him out there with Rodney Hood, myself, CJ, Zach Collins, Anthony Tolliver. I mean we have so many pieces that go well together so I think it’s definitely going to be an opportunity for us.”
Curry used his interview with ESPN to chime in on the Warriors’ offseason, one in which a sign-and-trade deal brought D’Angelo Russell aboard (from Brooklyn) and saw former Finals MVP Kevin Durant move on (to Brooklyn). Earlier this summer, Curry had spoken about Durant’s move and the new future that faced Golden State and further expanded on that in his ESPN interview.
Steph speaks on KD leaving the Warriors.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) September 18, 2019
“At the end of the day, we live in an age where choice at the forefront, and K, you know, made a decision for himself and you can’t argue that,” Curry told ESPN. “I wish we could still play with K. He’s an unbelievable talent, unbelievable person. We accomplished a lot together. But — you know, things have changed a little bit. So you obviously wish him the best, obviously with his recovery first and foremost and things on and off the court. But we’re gonna have to battle down the road. So this should be a fun, new experience on that front, too.”
The Wall Street Journal had a lengthy profile on Durant, in which Durant said he felt he was never fully embraced as a member of the Warriors. Curry had his thoughts on that interview, explaining how he cherished playing alongside Durant in their three seasons together.
“I mean, that’s tough,” Curry told ESPN. “There’s so many narratives that go on, especially when you’re at the top of the league. No matter how, you know, the full transition happens to Brooklyn, him separating himself from the Warriors — that’s gonna happen. I think he knows, you know, what we were about as teammates, what we were about as friends on and off the court. And again, nobody is gonna take away the accomplishments we had. But at the end of the day, whatever he, you know, needed to do to make that decision and however he wants to explain that — that’s just what’s gonna happen.”