Harrison Barnes missed the end of the regular season with a groin injury that cost him the final 11 games of the Kings’ 2020-21 campaign. In his exit interview last month, Barnes said that his rehab from that injury would run into the offseason, but not into July.
That timing matters because Barnes was on the list of 57 finalists for Team USA, which looks to defend its gold medal at the Olympics this summer in Tokyo. Training camp for the team will take place next month, and it would be unfortunate if Barnes — a member of Team USA in its last two international competitions — couldn’t participate for health reasons.
Barnes made it clear that his injury would not be a factor.
“I don’t think that would affect my availability,” Barnes said on May 17. “I don’t know whether or not I’ll be on that roster or not, but I don’t think [rehab will] be well into July.”
The other problem, of course, is that Barnes has to make the team. Individually, Barnes played better last season than he has at any point in his career. He’s arguably more qualified now to be an Olympian than he was in 2016. But with Team USA coming off a loss in the world championships in 2019, the program is targeting not just All-Stars, but all-NBA talents to fill out this year’s team.
Thus far, eight players have reportedly committed: Damian Lillard, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, Bam Adebayo, and James Harden. That leaves four spots, and though there are several prominent names who are currently injured, Barnes is probably behind players like Trae Young, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Chris Paul, DeMar DeRozan, and Russell Westbrook, should they choose to play.
The numbers game isn’t exactly in Barnes’ favor, but he does have international experience, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a couple more players on that list drop off, creating a spot for him. It helps that Barnes has been in this position before as a deep bench player on the 2016 Olympic team. With so much additional talent on the team, he understands how to play his role, whether that includes time on the court. Barnes also offers a good deal of positional versatility, which makes it east to slot him in no matter the other players on the roster.
Diminished role or not, it sounds like Barnes would readily accept an invitation, even with the news that he and his wife Brittany are expecting a baby girl in August.
“To have that opportunity to play USA basketball, obviously would love to do that,” Barnes said last month. “I’ve done that in the past, I’ve had nothing but great experiences, but like I said, that decision’s really not in my court.”
Do you think Barnes will make this year’s Olympic team?