Boomers’ scare as COVID drama hits Team USA

Discussions are reportedly underway about cancelling tomorrow’s pre-Olympic match between Australia and Team USA after star Bradley Beal was ruled out of the Olympics.

Beal was placed into health and safety protocols and the U.S. men’s basketball team said it will replace him on its roster at a later date.

The Americans also announced that forward Jerami Grant has also been played in health and safety protocols “out of an abundance of caution.”

With the Olympics set to start in eight days, it’s understood both sides are in talks about cancelling the exhibition match which was scheduled for tomorrow AEST, in an attempt to play it safe.

Beal had started all three exhibition games for the U.S. so far in Las Vegas, averaging 10.3 points on 10-for-21 shooting.

The Washington Wizards guard was second in the NBA this season with 31.3 points per game. Coach Gregg Popovich said it was devastating news for Beal and his family.

“I’m dying for him,” Popovich said. “We all are.”

Beal was expected to play for the Americans two years ago in the Basketball World Cup in China, but had to withdraw from consideration before training camp for family reasons.

He finally had his chance to suit up for the senior national team now and he seemed ready for it.

After scoring just two points in the Americans’ loss to Nigeria in their opener, he followed with 12 points against Australia and then had 17 on Tuesday AEST against Argentina in the first U.S. victory.

“Bradley is no doubt, he’s a huge loss. He was playing very well, understanding everything and fit in well with the group,” Popovich said. “So there’s no next Bradley Beal.”

Beal’s NBA team was hit hard by a coronavirus outbreak early in the season and every club had to navigate players going in and out of the lineup because of the strict protocols in place.

Golden State’s Draymond Green said it’s difficult to see the impact the virus still has after 17 or 18 months.

“The experience, the opportunity to represent your country is one that you all dream about growing up,” Green said. “So to see that opportunity taken away, you can only sympathise with Brad.”

Beal started for Team USA in their first three exhibition games, unexpected losses to Nigeria and the Boomers followed by a victory over Argentina.

Boomers great Chris Anstey suggested that Australia’s Olympic campaign would be in jeopardy if just one Boomer tested positive as a result of contact with Beal during the game. However, ESPN reports that all Australia players tested negative late last night. Team USA played Argentina after their clash with the Aussies, it’s unclear if any of the South Americans were impacted.

USA Basketball has two more exhibitions remaining, first Saturday AEST against Australia and then Monday AEST against Spain. The team is scheduled to fly to the Olympics on Tuesday AEST.

The Americans have already been playing short-handed during their exhibition games, with Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday of Milwaukee and Devin Booker of Phoenix playing in the NBA Finals.

Popovich said the challenge for the Americans will be finding a player who is in good shape, after the NBA regular season ended in May.

He said they are going through names who are available and trying to see who would be a fit. He added that the Americans wouldn’t be able to replace Beal as a scorer and might end up with someone like a utility player in baseball.

The Americans opening game of the Olympics is against France set for July 25.

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