By early Thursday, the Mavericks could have two players going for the gold medal at the Olympics.
Superstar point guard Luka Dončić, who has never lost an international game with Slovenia (17-0), will lead his country’s men’s basketball team into the Olympic semifinals against a powerful French team anchored by Rudy Gobert, Nic Batum and Evan Fournier.
While France may have more NBA-proven players, Slovenia remains the best story of these Olympics.
They had never made the Games in men’s basketball until this year. Their match with France for a berth in the gold-medal game tips off at 6 a.m. Thursday, Dallas time.
Meanwhile, second-year swingman Josh Green and his Australian teammates will face the star-loaded U.S. team late Wednesday night, Dallas time (11:15 p.m.).
If both Slovenia and Australia should win their semifinal games, that would mean either Dončić or Green would end up with a gold medal. The other would have silver. The gold and bronze medal games will be Saturday.
Green has emerged as a solid reserve player for the Aussies, who defeated Argentina in the quarterfinals to earn a date against the U.S.
They are built around Joe Ingles and Patty Mills, but Green had six points and two rebounds in just four minutes of late-game time in the blowout against Argentina.
He’s been gaining valuable experience playing with (and against) high-level competition.
“Right now, Josh is gold-medal-focused,” said Greg St. Jean, one of Jason Kidd’s assistants who is coaching the Mavericks’ summer-league team that Green will join after the Olympics. “And we got another guy (Dončić) who is gold-medal-focused as well. We’re rooting for both of them.”
St. Jean said that the staff, their teammates and the entire Mavericks’ organization has gotten a rush out of the run Dončić and Green have had in the Olympics.
“When we watch those games, we’re all thinking: we’re glad he’s on our team,” St. Jean said of Dončić. “When we’re watching Luka dominate international play and Josh is playing a role on a really successful team – we’re really proud as an organization and we’ve really enjoyed watching their success.
“And now we’re getting to that point where it’s getting close to an organizational loyalty versus team USA, so that’s going to be fun.”
Dončić and U.S. superstar Kevin Durant have been the most electric players during the Olympics so far. After an early stumble against France, America has ripped off three consecutive wins to reach the semis.
The Slovenians, meanwhile, are 4-0 but will face their toughest match of the Olympics thus far against France, which is also unbeaten, including that surprise victory over the U.S.
Not to be overlooked is Australia. Green is one of that country’s up-and-coming players who figures to be a part of many future international teams.
In the more immediate future, he’ll be joining the Mavericks shortly after Australia’s final Olympic game on Saturday.
“Josh is on the roster and he’s excited about the potential to play,” St. Jean said. “We’re evaluating that, but we wanted to give him the option and give us as an organization the option for an availability for him to be able to play at the end of the Olympics if it makes sense.”
Whether or not the 6-6 swingman plays in the summer league, he will be joining the Mavericks in some capacity.
By being on the summer roster, it means Green can play if the opportunity arises. But at the least, he will be going through workouts and meetings designed to get players acclimated to a new system under a new coach.