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Clippings: Team USA should bring Reggie Jackson to Tokyo

Mr. June could be exactly what the Americans need.

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The USA men’s basketball team only took eight players to Tokyo Monday, as Zach LaVine entered the health and safety protocols and didn’t make the trip.

The program expects LaVine to join Team USA later, perhaps after the NBA Finals when Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton are available, but there is still some uncertainty about LaVine’s availability. And if LaVine can’t go, Jerry Colangelo should consider calling Reggie Jackson.

I first heard this theory posited by Andrew Sharp on the Greatest of All Talk podcast before Keldon Johnson filled the space occupied by Bradley Beal. But Jackson also makes sense if the USA needs a LaVine replacement. Even though he’s never played for Team USA, Jackson could be exactly what the Americans are looking for.

First of all, Jackson was playing his best basketball when the season ended. He’s another ball handler and he had an excellent shooting season, shooting 45 percent on threes during the first 72 games and then 42 percent during the playoffs. He pushes the pace for the Clippers, which is exactly how Team USA wants to play, and he’s quite good getting into the paint or settling into trail threes in transition. Jackson is also good at getting ready at a moment’s notice — think of the times he was alerted during the national anthem that he would be starting that night for the Clippers.

More than anything, Jackson has proven that he has an ability to rise to the moment. The Americans are under pressure to repeat as gold medalists, and it has occasionally seemed like a burden during the exhibition games. But Jackson welcomes pressure; he thrived in it this year.

Admittedly, there’s probably a special alchemy on the Clippers that made Jackson as good as he was in 2020-21 that isn’t replicable on Team USA. He also played a lot of minutes during the playoff run, though no more than Middleton, Holiday, or Booker. Jackson is a free agent, too, and players tend to avoid international commitments when they have contracts on the line.

But Jackson just loves to hoop, and he’s in a groove. He’s also a veteran who knows how to fit in. He would be the perfect player for the Olympics if they needed a last-minute replacement.

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