June 23 (Reuters) - Five basketball players to watch out for at the Tokyo Olympics:
RUDY GOBERT (FRANCE)
Dubbed sport’s ‘Patient Zero’ after he tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020 and triggered a shutdown of the entire NBA, Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert will lead the French team in Japan where concern over the spread of the virus dominates life. A three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Gobert will be key to French medal hopes. But with the Jazz making a deep run into the postseason, how much gas he will have left in the tank for Tokyo will be something to watch.
LIZ CAMBAGE (AUSTRALIA)
Cambage, a centre with the WNBA Las Vegas Aces, had threatened to boycott the Tokyo Games over a lack of racial diversity in Australia’s Olympic photo-shoots but after clearing the air is ready to lead the Opals in Japan. Shut out of the medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Opals will be looking for a return to the podium in Tokyo, having won a silver or bronze at every Games since 1996.
SUE BIRD (UNITED STATES)
Sue Bird has represented the United States at four Olympics and has four gold medals. She wants five. Taken first overall in the 2002 NBA draft, the 40-year-old point guard has also won four WNBA titles with the Seattle Storm and is a five-time Euro League champion. Widely recognised as one of her sport’s all-time greats, Bird will provide veteran leadership as the United States goes for a seventh straight gold.
BRADLEY BEAL (UNITED STATES)
The All Star guard was one of the first players to commit to playing under coach Gregg Popovich as the Dream Team go for a fourth straight Olympic title in Tokyo.
Beal, who averaged a career-high 31.3 points a game and shot 48.5% from the field for the Washington Wizards in the 2020-21 NBA season, will be looking forward to linking up with close friend Jayson Tatum in the squad.
LUIS SCOLA (ARGENTINA)
Luis Scola will be the only basketball player in Tokyo to have done something no other has done - have beaten the United States at an Olympics. Scola, 41, will bring down a dazzling Olympic career in Japan that was highlighted by an 89-81 semi-final win over the U.S. Dream Team at the 2004 Athens Summer Games. Scola scored a game high 19-points in the gold medal win over Italy as Argentina became the only country in the last seven Olympics to interrupt U.S. domination on the hardwood. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)