Team USA will continue to be without forward Jayson Tatum, who suffered a sprained ankle in the closing seconds of the Americans’ narrow victory over Turkey in the group stage, and hasn’t played since. According to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon, Tatum didn’t suit up for France but is expected to return to action for a potential semifinal matchup against Argentina, should the U.S. advance on Wednesday.
Tatum was an absolutely essential part of that win over the Turks. He was fouled on a potential game-winning three-point attempt at the end of regulation, at which point Turkey led by two points. Tatum sank two of three free throws to send the game to overtime in the first place. Khris Middleton hit the free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining that ultimately won them the game, but Tatum led the fastbreak that set that play up.
Tatum has settled into a role as a starter for Team USA since the tournament began. He was second on the team with just over 31 minutes of playing time in his last appearance, and he finished the game with 11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. He may not have shot efficiently in the win, but that sort of all-around play is exactly what the Celtics are hoping for out of Tatum next season.
In his absence, Brooklyn Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris has moved into the starting lineup, and acquitted himself well. His three-point shooting is extremely valuable in a FIBA setting that includes more zone-defenses, and he’s shooting 9-of-16 from deep in the tournament.
Several star players dropped out of consideration for Team USA prior to the beginning of their training camp last month. Injuries were a big reason why. After Paul George suffered a gruesome compound fracture in his right leg during the leadup to the 2014 World Cup, many of the NBA‘s biggest stars have simply deemed international play too big of a risk to their professional prospects. Tatum’s injury wasn’t nearly as serious, but it offers vindication to players who might be considering sitting out next summer’s Olympics. This is a big loss for Team USA in more ways than one, so getting Tatum back to full health as quickly as possible will be imperative.