Team USA features four members of the Boston Celtics on the roster, as Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart as they vie for the 2019 FIBA World Cup title. However, as they got ready for their third game of pool play against Japan, Team USA would be without two of their Celtics stars.
Jayson Tatum was out with a sprained ankle suffered in the overtime win against Turkey that will also force him to miss Saturday’s game against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece as the knockout rounds begin. He could return as early as Monday when he is re-evaluated, but the expectation is for them to proceed with caution with his health.
Marcus Smart joined him on the bench with a quad strain in his left leg, making for the second time he’s missed time since the start of camp with a muscle strain.
Marcus Smart is out for Team USA with a left quad strain vs. Japan. He will be day-to-day. Missed time with calf strain on same leg last month.
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) September 5, 2019
Against Japan, Team USA rolled to a 53-point win without Smart and Tatum as neither’s services were truly needed, but with Greece up next and Smart being one of the defenders you would like to be able to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo, his status for Saturday will be worth keeping an eye on. At the same time, Greece has not been deploying Giannis in a way that seems to really maximize the fact that they have one of the best players on the planet.
We’ll find out if that’s been them slow-playing this or it’s a real commitment to team ball, because if it’s the latter one would expect the U.S. to overwhelm them with or without Smart. For Celtics fans, the main concern is getting Tatum, Smart, and the rest of their guys back from China without any serious injuries that could linger into camp or the regular season.