Team USA’s 3×3 Hoops Is Unmissable No Matter Who’s In Paris

Team USA’s 3×3 Hoops Is Unmissable No Matter Who’s In Paris

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Based on its debut showing in Tokyo, I could make a case that 3×3 basketball is the ideal event for the TV-watching Olympic fan overwhelmed by a buffet of unusual sports. I have my reasons:

  1. The games, played to 21 or a 10-minute time limit, are quick but satisfying.
  2. The scoring is immediately comprehensible and not subject to judges’ evaluations.
  3. The number of athletes on each team—four—is the absolute perfect amount. Chemistry matters, and you can easily learn everybody’s name and deal.
  4. USA! USA! USA! USA!

With that last one, I’m talking specifically about the women’s team. Last go-round, the USA men were nonentities, and this time, the “big” names are Canyon Barry and Jimmer Fredette. The women, on the other hand, make for an exciting little side gang outside the traditional confines of the main 5-on-5 squad. In Tokyo, the team was Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Stefanie Dolson, and Allisha Gray—all of them either past or future WNBA all-stars. (Dolson in particular—tall, gay, great Instagram, encouraging teammate—parlayed her gold medal at this tournament into a coveted spot as my favorite player once she signed with the New York Liberty.)

This year’s women’s team was, in some ways, even heavier on star power. The headliner was Rhyne Howard, the 2022 WNBA first overall pick who immediately took charge of the Atlanta Dream. Alongside her was a wild card in Cierra Burdick, a 30-year-old who found success in this format but never really settled on a pro team in the U.S. And providing the most intrigue was Cameron Brink, the towering Sparks rookie who dominated the Pac-12, and Hailey Van Lith, the scary-intense point guard who’s about to join her third college team with TCU and has been a part of 3×3 since she was a kid. Howard’s talent is undeniable. Burdick is a cool counterpoint because this is kind of her one shot at mainstream American glory. But seeing Brink and Van Lith in this format, with the greater freedom allotted them, was a gigantic part of the draw. You could build a whole obnoxious hype video out of their blocks and crossovers alone.

But unfortunately, the potential of that squad will remain a mystery because of an injury suffered by Brink in a game Tuesday against the Sun. She has a torn left ACL, the Sparks confirmed Wednesday, which takes her away from basketball until next year. Brink’s replacement can’t be just anybody. She’ll have to have played in a recent official 3×3 tournament. The frontrunner, if you’re looking at Brink and mainly thinking “tall,” would probably be Dearica Hamby, who doesn’t boast the kind of dynamic rim protection Brink provides but is averaging a double-double as she leads the Sparks in points and rebounds.

In potentially even more disastrous news, Howard, too, had to leave her game on Wednesday with what is hopefully a more minor ankle sprain. Regardless of her status, the Team USA that hoops in Paris next month will be down its first-choice frontcourt player. But does this mean you shouldn’t watch them blast through the bracket? Get real.

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