The Team USA exhibition season has not gone according to plan. They have lost two exhibition matches against Australia and Nigeria, making them Olympic favorites. Although Team USA won over Argentina, COVID-19 protocols stripped Team USA of Bradley Beal. Kevin Love was also expelled from the roster due to a recurring injury to his calf. The Americans appeared to be in serious danger less than a week prior to the opening ceremonies, with Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday still playing in NBA Finals.
The final tuneup against FIBA No. 1, a frequent Olympic rival. Team USA was able to correct their ship against Spain, who were ranked 2nd in the world. However, a slow start threatened the team's chances of winning. Spain led for the majority of the first quarters. They took a 38-36 lead into halftime. This was despite strong performances by NBA legends Ricky Rubio, and the Gasol brothers. But Team USA emerged with renewed urgency in the second period thanks to one of their newest players.
San Antonio Spurs Wing Keldon John was supposed to play for Select Team in Las Vegas but Booker, Holiday, and Middleton were unavailable, so Team USA used him as a temporary replacement during their exhibitions. Team USA made Johnson a full-fledged player after Love and Beal were gone. The surprising decision was made considering Johnson's low profile in the NBA. However, Johnson proved to be a worthy player and his performance on Sunday was more than justifiable.
Johnson scored 10 points in just the third quarter and 15, in the entire game on 7-of-9 shooting. Team USA won the second half with an 83 to76 victory. His infectious energy helped Team USA win against a slower and older Spanish team in the crucial transition game. His Damian Lillard's 19 point lead was his only handicap for the game. Team USA beat Spain by 18 points in 18 minutes when he was present.
Johnson stated after the game, "I'm here to be an energy guy and bring light whenever we need it." "Third quarter, I came in because we needed a spark. I don't just mean that I got buckets. I was also on the defensive, talking, and all of it. I'm trying to bring energy and spark, so that we can get past the hump.
This energy will be crucial in the initial stages of the Olympics. Team USA will be making its Tokyo debut on Sunday, July 25, against France. Booker, Holiday, and Middleton might not be able to make it that fast if the Milwaukee Bucks or Phoenix Suns have to win all seven games in order to determine the NBA Finals. Johnson will likely be a part of this rotation from the beginning, and if Sunday's performance is any indication, he will continue to use it as a platform to show that he is one of basketball's brightest young stars.