Five Celtics are among the 44 finalists for the US Olympic team

Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum probably have the best chance among Celtics players of making the Olympic team.
Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum probably have the best chance among Celtics players of making the Olympic team.mary schwalm/AP/FR158029 AP via AP

HOUSTON — Celtics Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Marcus Smart are among the 44 finalists for the US Olympic men’s basketball team that will play in Tokyo this summer.

“We’ve built our whole thing around these five,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “so it’s good to see that they’re continuing to be recognized. And I think the four that played last summer, they put in a lot of time and effort. It was good to see that rewarded.”

Walker, Tatum, Brown, and Smart all played for the US team that placed a disappointing seventh in the World Cup last summer. Brown said that performance still serves as motivation.


“Obviously it’s an honor to be one of the 44 players,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of players they probably had to choose from, so that’s pretty cool.

“For me, at some point in my career, whether it’s this time or four years from now, I’ve got to avenge that loss that we took in China. So it’s a part of my journey now.”

Tatum, who recently was named an All-Star for the first time, said the World Cup experience helped his development. He said he would accept an invitation to the Olympics this season.

“Being around those guys in summer and really competing and getting after it and learning from some of the best coaches I think really helped myself, and all the guys on that team are having really good seasons,” he said. “So I think it translates.”

Gordon Hayward is averaging 17.1 points per game this season.
Gordon Hayward is averaging 17.1 points per game this season.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Hayward did not play in the World Cup, but he was previously a member of the Team USA player pool. Many of the world’s top players dropped out of that tournament, opening opportunities for players such as Smart and Brown to join the group. The Olympics are expected to be more star-studded, but Tatum and Walker figure to be the Celtics with the best chance of making the team.


Walker, for one, said it was a great honor for the Celtics to have five players reach this phase of the selection process.

“It’s definitely special,” he said. “Whenever you can do special things like that with your teammates, the guys you work hard with each and every day and spend most of your time with, it’s always a great thing.”

The 12-man final roster will be announced later this year.

Nagging injuries

Brown, who has been dealing with nagging ankle injuries for several weeks, intends to play against the Rockets Tuesday. He missed Friday’s win over the Hawks with a right ankle sprain and returned to play against the Thunder Sunday. In the third quarter, he reinjured that ankle, and then returned to the game and tweaked his left ankle. “It’s hard, because we’ve got games every other day,” he said. “You can’t really get the rest you need to let your body recover. It’s probably why I keep aggravating the same injury” . . . Tatum was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week Monday. He averaged 28.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field in four Celtics wins.

The 44 Olympic finalists

Jaylen Brown, Boston

Gordon Hayward, Boston

Marcus Smart, Boston

Jayson Tatum, Boston

Kemba Walker, Boston

Bam Adebayo, Miami

LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio

Harrison Barnes, Sacramento

Bradley Beal, Washington

Devin Booker, Phoenix

Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana

Jimmy Butler, Miami


Mike Conley, Utah

Stephen Curry, Golden State

Anthony Davis, LA Lakers

DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio

Andre Drummond, Cleveland

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn

Paul George, LA Clippers

Draymond Green, Golden State

James Harden, Houston

Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers

Joe Harris, Brooklyn

Tobias Harris, Philadelphia

Dwight Howard, LA Lakers

Brandon Ingram, New Orleans

Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn

LeBron James, LA Lakers

Kyle Kuzma, LA Lakers

Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

Damian Lillard, Portland

Brook Lopez, Milwaukee

Kevin Love, Cleveland

Kyle Lowry, Toronto

JaVale McGee, LA Lakers

Khris Middleton, Milwaukee

Donovan Mitchell, Utah

Victor Oladipo, Indiana

Chris Paul, Oklahoma City

Mason Plumlee, Denver

Klay Thompson, Golden State

Myles Turner, Indiana

Russell Westbrook, Houston

Derrick White, San Antonio

Coach: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.