Beginning on July 25, the basketball hub of the world will be the Saitama Super Arena in Japan, where the entirety of the Olympic men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be held and the Utah Jazz will be well represented right from the start.

Joe Ingles (Australia), Rudy Gobert (France) and Miye Oni (Nigeria) will all be competing to win their first Olympic medal. In fact, Australia and Nigeria have never won an Olympic medal for basketball, and though France has earned two silver medals in the sport, the last time was at the 2000 Sydney Games.

The biggest questions heading into the postponed 2020 Tokyo Games, of course, revolve around COVID-19 and how it will impact the competition and namely how it will impact Team USA. Consider this your Jazz-centered Olympic primer — what to know and who to watch.

Australia

Australia’s Joe Ingles shoots over United States’ Keldon Johnson during an exhibition basketball game Monday, July 12, 2021, in Las Vegas. Ingles will be among a handful of NBA veterans competing for the Boomers at this year’s Games. | John Locher, Associated Press

The Australian men’s national team, known as the Boomers, are widely considered to be the team with the best chance to challenge Team USA at the Olympics.

International basketball reporter Igor Curkovic surmises that most people will be pulling for the Aussies to medal in Tokyo, not only because of their star-studded roster but also because they’ve just narrowly missed it so recently. 

“The entire world probably wants to see the Boomers climb the podium in Tokyo,” Curkovic writes. “Because they have been the sweethearts of the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, yet they ended up in the fourth spot both times around.”

Related
MyKayla Skinner and Grace McCallum have already made history and there’s more to come
Utah college athletes — past and present — who are Tokyo-bound

Ingles, Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs) and Aron Baynes (Toronto Raptors) headline the team that also includes NBA players in Matisse Thybulle (Philadelphia 76ers), Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers), Josh Green (Dallas Mavericks) and former Jazzman Dante Exum (Cavaliers) as well as some of the top players from Australia’s NBL.

The Boomers won all three of their exhibition games against Argentina, Team USA and Nigeria, while training in Las Vegas, but their final friendly against Team USA was canceled when health and safety protocols prevented the U.S. side from competing.

On top of their near misses, much of the core of the Boomers’ roster is aging, and there’s no telling how much longer this group will be able to compete together for a medal. They’re already without Andrew Bogut, who retired from basketball in December at 36 years old, and for all anyone knows Baynes (34), Ingles (33) and Mills (32) could decide to hang up their sneakers before the 2024 Paris Games.

France

Rudy Gobert of France reacts during their semifinals match against Argentina for the FIBA Basketball World Cup at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2019. The Jazz big man will anchor France’s quest for a medal in the Tokyo Olympics. | Andy Wong, Associated Press

Gobert is without a doubt the headliner for the French national team. The NBA’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year leads a team that has long been considered medal contenders leading up to the Tokyo Games, mostly because they earned bronze at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, beating both Team USA and Australia on their way.

But, France lost all three of its exhibition games leading up to the Tokyo Games, two games against Spain and another against Japan, despite a roster that includes NBA players Nicolas Batum (Los Angeles Clippers), Evan Fournier (Boston Celtics), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (Brooklyn Nets) and Frank Ntilikina (New York Knicks).

Nigeria

Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni defends Cleveland Cavaliers guard Brodric Thomas.
Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni defends Cleveland Cavaliers guard Brodric Thomas as the Utah Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers play at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 29, 2021. Oni will be competing for Nigeria in the Tokyo Olympics. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Nigerian national team has become the feel-good, underdog team of the Olympics. Coach Mike Brown (currently an assistant with the Golden State Warriors and former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and Cavaliers) led the Nigerian team to exhibition wins against Team USA and Argentina. The Nigerian side features eight current NBA players — Josh Okogie (Minnesota Timberwolves), Precious Achiuwa (Miami Heat) and Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings) play alongside Gabe Vincent (Heat), KZ Okpala (Heat), Jahlil Okafor (Detroit Pistons), the Jazz’s Oni and Jordan Nwora (Milwaukee Bucks), who will join the team in Tokyo after the conclusion of the NBA Finals. Additionally, former Jazzman Ekpe Udoh is on the 12-man roster.

Though the Nigerian team is not expected to medal in Tokyo, they might make some unexpected waves and shock people.

Team USA

Damian Lillard plays against Spain during exhibition game prior to the Olympics, Sunday, July 18, 2021, in Las Vegas.
United States’ Damian Lillard (6) plays against Spain during the first half of an exhibition basketball game in preparation for the Olympics, Sunday, July 18, 2021, in Las Vegas. The former Weber State guard is expected to be a key member of Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics. | John Locher, Associated Press

Though there aren’t any Jazz players on the U.S. men’s national team, what happens and is happening with Team USA could drastically change the Olympic field.

The team is still waiting on three players that are in the NBA Finals — the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker and Bucks’ Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton — and have had significant upsets because of the coronavirus.

Jerami Grant missed time during camp due to the health and safety protocols, and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal is no longer with the team after being in COVID-19 health and safety protocols and was replaced by the Spurs’ Keldon Johnson. Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls) is currently in health and safety protocols and did not travel with the team to Tokyo on Monday. In fact, Team USA only went to Tokyo with eight players on their flight.

While the team still features top-tier talent like Kevin Durant (Nets), former Weber State great Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Jayson Tatum (Celtics) and Draymond Green (Warriors), there are questions about their ability to field a full team and how much they’ll be able to perform considering that three of their players will have such a quick turnaround after the NBA Finals and the beginning of Olympic competition.

Because of the time difference, some games might be difficult to watch. But, in the interest of being fully informed, France and Team USA’s first game will be against each other on July 25 at 6 a.m. MDT. Australia and Nigeria will also play one another in their first game on July 25 at 2:20 a.m. MDT.