James, Davis, Leonard create Dream Team at Paris Olympics

Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports
The Sporting Tribune's Mark Medina writes about the significance of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard joining forces.

LOS ANGELES — The NBA stars usually have represented two factions of the LA basketball fanbase.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis play for a Lakers franchise that has dominated the local landscape both with championships and prestige. Kawhi Leonard plays for a Clippers franchise eager to take away some of the Lakers’ championship hardware and fanbase.

That dynamic will change for at least this summer.

James, Davis and Leonard are among the various NBA stars that will compete on the U.S. Olympic team in the 2024 Paris Games. Paul George, James Harden and Austin Reaves didn’t make the cut, but they could remain available as alternates after being named in the initial player pool. Clippers coach Tyronn Lue will remain on Steve Kerr’s coaching staff after also working as one of his assistants in last year’s FIBA World Cup.

From the opening ceremony July 26 to the presumed gold-medal game Aug. 11, Team USA won’t just seek to win their fourth consecutive gold medal in the Summer Games both to maintain its global dominance and rectify last year’s semifinal loss to Germany. The team’s LA contingent will feature both star power and subplots worthy of any Hollywood production

After contributing to Team USA’s past three Olympic gold-medal wins  in 2008 (China), 2012 (London) and 2016 (Brazil), James will play presumably in his final Olympics at 39 years old. Not only will his upcoming Olympic appearance reflect both his enduring talent and longevity. He has the chance to contribute to Team USA’s redemption arc as the team’s veteran leader 16 years after playing on the “Redeem Team” as one of the squad’s definitive young stars.

Just as they have done for the past five seasons with the Lakers, Davis will team up with James in a different context. After experiencing mixed results with the Lakers (one NBA title, two West Finals stints, one first-round exit, one missed playoff appearance), James and Davis will seek to collect another gold medal together.

James and Davis already won one together in 2012, but Davis had a minor role on that London team. Though this year’s Olympic team also will feature Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, Davis’ presence will be valuable both for his two-way dominance and his chemistry with James.

It initially seemed surprising that Leonard made the U.S. Olympic team. The reasons had nothing to do his talent. The reasons had everything to do with his durability.

Heck, the Clippers have listed Leonard as questionable for Game 2 of their first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday after missing the final eight regular-season games and Game 1 with right knee inflammation.

If Leonard can’t play if most or any of the Clippers’ playoff games, how would they feel about Leonard competing for a gold medal? Hard to really stop a star player, however, from wanting to make their first Olympic appearance.

Here’s guessing that this will only strengthen Lue’s partnership with Leonard. He will have the chance to be a part of a coaching staff that manages him in a different setting.

Same thing for James after the two made four Finals appearances and won the 2016 NBA title together in Cleveland. After becoming one of the NBA’s most respected coaches for how he makes adjustments and managers players,  Lue will likely sharpen his playbook and strengthen his relationships.

Don’t feel surprised if either George, Harden or Reaves strengthen LA’s influence on the Paris Olympics team. Amid injury concerns to Leonard and Joel Embiid, it seems plausible that any of those players could serve as alternates. George could play in his first Olympics since winning gold in the 2016 Rio Games. Harden could make his first Olympic appearance since winning gold in the 2012 London Games. Austin could make his first Olympic appearance altogether after playing on last year’s FIBA World Cup team.

Despite the uncertainty on how the final roster shakes out, it appears that Team USA will feature a wide range of Lakers and Clippers connections. To think, James, Davis and Leonard could play together after the Lakers initially tried to make that happen in the 2019 offseason. To think, James and George could play together after the Lakers initially attempted to sign George in 2017 as a free agent a year before ultimately signing James.

Regardless of whether the Lakers and/or Clippers have either a short or deep post-season run, these overlapping connections on the U.S. Olympics team would likely produce firmer bonds for its gold-medal pursuit than any animosity from LA’s intracity rivalry.

Mark Medina is an Lakers/Clippers writer for Sporting Tribune.. Follow him on XInstagramFacebook and Threads.