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Harden, Westbrook want to play for USA at Tokyo Olympics

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Agence France-Presse

Two-time reigning NBA scoring champion James Harden and fellow Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook said Friday they want to play for the United States at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Speaking to reporters a day before the NBA club opens training camp for the 2019-20 campaign, seven-time NBA All-Star Harden made it clear he wants a chance at a third consecutive gold medal after helping US title runs in 2012 and 2016.

“Of course that’s one of my goals, to represent the USA and this beautiful country at the Games,” Harden said.

Westbrook said he also wants to be a part of the American squad of NBA stars that will attempt to capture a fourth consecutive gold medal and a seventh in eight tries since NBA talent first competed in the Olympics in 1992 at Barcelona with the Michael Jordan-led “Dream Team.”

After settling for bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics, the Americans created a national team program and returned to Olympic supremacy.

But with many high-profile players skipping this month’s Basketball World Cup in China, the US team of NBA players settled for seventh, barely booking an Olympic berth and raising questions about how well even an elite US NBA squad would fare in Japan next year.

That prompted Tokyo Olympics commitments by Golden State guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and four-time NBA All-Star guard Damian Lillard of Portland even before the Rockets’ starting backcourt joined them.

Harden, the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player, averaged a career-high 31.6 points a game last season as well as a career-best 6.9 rebounds and 6.6 assists.

Eight-time NBA All-Star Westbrook, the 2017 NBA MVP who played for Oklahoma City last season, had 22.9 points and career highs of 11.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists a game.

Two-time NBA scoring champion Westbrook has led the NBA in assists the past two seasons and averaged triple-doubles in each of the past three seasons. Before him, the only player to manage the feat was Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 campaign.