Team USA's Zach LaVine placed in COVID-19 protocols, won't fly to Tokyo with team

USA Basketball announced on Monday that guard Zach LaVine has been placed in COVID-19 health and safety protocols and won't fly with the team to Tokyo. It hopes that LaVine will be able to join the team in Japan later this week.

The program described LaVine's placement in protocols as out of "an abundance of caution." It didn't note why LaVine was placed in protocols. The news is the latest high-profile blow for Team USA and an Olympics facing significant pressure amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

USA Basketball already lost 2 players

USA Basketball already had to replace two players on its roster since the onset of the team's training camp in Las Vegas earlier in July. Starting guard Bradley Beal will miss the Olympics following his placement in COVID-19 protocols, while Kevin Love left the team because of an ongoing calf injury. Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee took their places on the roster.

United States' Zach LaVine plays against Australia during an exhibition basketball game Monday, July 12, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
USA Basketball hopes that Zach LaVine will eventually be able to join the team in Japan. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Will struggling Team USA win gold?

Forward Jerami Grant was placed in protocols last week as well, but remains on the roster. The initial COVID-19 exposures forced Team USA to cancel its exhibition game against Australia scheduled for last Friday. The team played and defeated Spain on Sunday to wrap its exhibition schedule. LaVine played in that game. Team USA finished 2-2 in Olympics warmups, with losses against Nigeria and Australia prompting concern about its prospects for a gold medal.

The Olympics opening ceremony is scheduled for Friday, while Team USA is slated to start Olympic play on July 25 against France. If LaVine can't join the team in Tokyo, it's not clear if USA Basketball will be able to replace him.

COVID-19 looming large over Tokyo Olympics

USA Basketball isn't the only program dealing with COVID-19 issues ahead of the Olympics. An alternate for the U.S. women's gymnastics team has tested positive, putting her status for the Games in doubt. Tennis player Coco Gauff announced her withdrawal from the Games on Sunday after her positive COVID-19 test.

Programs from other countries are also dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, while the Tokyo Olympic Village saw a resident test positive on Friday. This is all happening against the backdrop of increasing COVID-19 spread in Tokyo as Japan struggles to vaccinate its population. Polling shows a significant portion of Japan's population supports canceling the Games, while fans have been barred from attending as spectators amid a nationwide state of emergency.

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