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He likes the idea of playing for Gregg Popovich, and he's excited for the special opportunity to go for gold

COURTESY PHOTO: BRUCE ELY/TRAIL BLAZERS - Damian Lillard will participate on Team USA and play in his first Olympics in Tokyo. He had a stellar 2020-21 season for the Trail Blazers, despite dealing with various injuries.Dame to Olympics — Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has committed to play for Team USA as it prepares for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Team USA has a training camp July 6-18 in Las Vegas, and plays its first exhibition game July 10 against Nigeria; it opens the Olympics July 25 against France.

He sat out participating with Team USA in the 2016 Olympics while nursing plantar fasciitis.

Other players committed to Team USA: Draymond Green, Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bam Adebayo, Zach LaVine, Jerami Grant, Kevin Love, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday.

James Harden had to withdraw because of an injury.

Lillard will play for coach Gregg Popovich with Team USA. The Americans are going for their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

"Pop being the coach of the national team played a big role in my decision to commit," Lillard told reporters. "I have a lot of respect for Pop as a coach and as a person. I look forward to playing for him, taking in his basketball knowledge and seeing what our team can do.

"I'm just hoping we can put together a team of great players that fit as one. I don't necessarily want them to say, `Oh, Dame is playing so I should play,' but I do hope they see that top players are making the commitment and look at it as an opportunity to be a part of something special."

Lillard was in the MVP discussion for much of the 2020-21 season. He averaged 28.8 points, 7.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds, and had many highlight-reel moments, including in the NBA All-Star Game, all while dealing with various injuries and carrying the Blazers because of long-term injuries to CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.

Nurkic engaged — Social media followers were giddy about news last week that Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic had become engaged to girlfriend and fellow Bosnian Emina Duric.

He wrote in an Instagram about his girlfriend: "You are the happiness that covers my scars."

Nurkic once wore a T-shirt with his girlfriend's picture on the front of it to a Blazers game.

Play-by-play person — The Trail Blazers will have a new television play-by-play person — Kevin Calabro? — when it makes the move to Root Sports for the 2021-22 season.

The team announced that Jordan Kent won't serve as the broadcaster any longer; he had been with the Trail Blazers since 2016, when he started as television studio host alongside Michael Holton. He was the TV play-by-play person for the 2020-21 season.

"We're extremely thankful for the hard work, dedication and passion Jordan has put into his roles with the Trail Blazers," said Chris McGowan, president and CEO. "He brought a wealth of basketball knowledge and experience to the organization and we wish him nothing but the best as he continues in his career."

Kent, the son of former Oregon basketball coach Ernie Kent, played basketball and football and competed in track and field at University of Oregon.

— Jason Vondersmith


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