Zach LaVine was one of the integral players in The USA team and had a huge contribution in helping his nation win gold at Tokyo 2020.
Zach LaVine was on the 12-man roster representing The United States of America at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As expected, the team filled with NBA stars managed to grab their 4th straight gold medal in the Games, defeating France 87-82 in the gold medal bout.
The Bulls guard had a sensational tournament, averaging a solid 9.7 points, 2 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game on an impressive 60/45.5/85.7 shooting split. However, his contributions to the squad were larger than what was seen on the stat sheet.
According to Gregg Popovich, the national team’s coach at the time, LaVine had a clinical role in bringing the gold medal home. After the Spurs-Bulls matchup, Coach Pop explained how Zach managed to impress him during their time in Tokyo.
“He was so important to what we did just because of his special skills. He and Devin Booker were kind of similar in that regard. They really gave us pace,” Popovich said. “The speed with which he plays, the athleticism he uses, I would be in awe from time to time with some of the things he would do on the court. That speed, that pace that he gave us allowed a lot of things to happen.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich raved about coaching Zach LaVine at the Olympics.
“I would be in awe from time to time with some of the things he would do on the court.”
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 29, 2022
“Zach LaVine would say ‘Pop, just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll go do it’”: Gregg Popovich
The Spurs head coach further stated how Zach was willing to do anything and everything Pop demanded from him. Coach Pop further lauded the highflyer:
“The thing I remember most about him, and I can almost quote him, is he would say, ‘Pop, just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll go do it.’ He must’ve told me that 10 times while we were there. And he would follow through on it,” Popovich said. “I’d say, ‘We gotta have you play ‘D.’ We gotta have you use athleticism to make some stops. At the other end they can’t stop you if you’re active and aggressive.’ And he did those things.
“He was really one of the favorites of a lot of people—not just coaches but other players who hadn’t played with him. We were just stunned by some of the things he could do with the basketball and his speed. He always had a smile on his face. He was always ready to go. I enjoyed him very much. He was wonderful.”
“He was able to use that athleticism to get up into people who weren’t used to that kind of pressure,” Popovich said. “And he could give it. And he did.”